23 Mar How to Speak ‘Spanglish’

If you’ve taken a Spanish class or watched Spanish-language television stations, you’ve probably heard about ‘Spanglish’. But, what exactly is this language? Can you consider it a language?

‘Spanglish’ is a fusion of Spanish and English. Although not usually considered a language and technically not a dialect, it is a best described as a form of “code-switching” between the two languages. It varies heavily by region. It can be more influenced by English grammar and vocabulary or more dominated by Spanish depending on where you are. While it’s not a pidgin language, some people use it as a preferred form of spoken communication.

The term ‘Spanglish’ was first used in the 1940s by Salvador Tio, though he called it by its Spanish term, “Espanglish.” Since then, its popularity has soared. Today, it’s commonly spoken in New York, Miami, Texas, and California. However, the version of Spanglish spoken in all of these areas is unique, so speakers from one area likely wouldn’t be able to understand those from another. Interestingly, it’s difficult for speakers of standard Spanish to understand ‘Spanglish’ when they hear it.

How do I speak ‘Spanglish’?

What are the major characteristics of Spanglish vocabulary and structure? First of all, it makes heavy use of calques, which are complete, correct translations of words and phrases from one language to the other with no alteration. For example, egg is huevo. But, unlike standard Spanish, Spanglish uses loan words, that is, words that are borrowed from English, though they may be pronounced as in Spanish. “Hacer click [to click]” and “stalkear [stalking, to stalk]” are examples. ‘Spanglish’ also uses fromlositano which takes Spanish sayings and translates them word-for-word into English, often with amusing results. Fromlositano also involves translations of English names verbatim into Spanish. For example, “Calle del Panadero” is Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes.

To use Spanglish in a sentence, the easiest way is to just to start a sentence in one language, end it in the other, or keep going back and forth. You might say, “Yo fui a la store to buy las uvas [I went to the store to buy the grapes].” Or, “ I want comprar un dog [I want to buy a dog].”

If you want to learn more about and experience Spanglish for yourself, music and books are a great starting point. ‘Spanglish’ is used in many popular songs, including those by Shakira, Ricky Martin, The Mars Volta, and Molotov. In 1998, Puerto Rican author Giannina Braschi published Yo-Yo Boing!, a novel written entirely in ‘Spanglish’.

Good luck learning ‘Spanglish’! Have fun, don’t forget to platicar y charlar lots, and hasta luego!

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