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A sign offering free consultation from a mechanic, taken in Miami, Florida.
A sign offering free consultation from a mechanic, taken in Miami, Florida.

Spanglish (a portmanteau of the words "Spanish" and "English") is a name sometimes given to various contact dialects, pidgins, or creole languages that result from interaction between Spanish and English used by people who speak both languages or parts of both languages, mainly spoken in the United States. It is a blend of Spanish and English lexical items and grammar. Spanglish can be considered a variety of Spanish with heavy use of English or vice versa.[citation needed] It can be more related either to Spanish or to English, depending on the circumstances. Since Spanglish arises independently in each region, it reflects the locally spoken varieties of English and Spanish. In general different varieties of Spanglish are not necessarily mutually intelligible. In Mexican and Chicano Spanish the common term for "Spanglish" is "Pocho".[1]

The term Spanglish is first recorded in 1933.[2] It corresponds to the Spanish terms Espanglish (from Español + English, introduced by the Puerto Rican poet Salvador Tió in the late 1940s), Ingléspañol (from Inglés + Español), and Inglañol (Inglés + Español).[3] Other colloquial portmanteau words for Spanglish are Spenglish (recorded from 1967) and Spinglish (from 1970).[2]

Some of these creoles have become recognized languages in their own right, such as San Andrés–Providencia Creole of Colombia.

History and distribution

In the late 1940s, the Puerto Rican journalist, poet, and essayist Salvador Tió coined the terms Espanglish for Spanish spoken with some English terms, and the less commonly used Inglañol for English spoken with some Spanish terms.

After Puerto Rico became a United States territory in 1898, Spanglish became progressively more common there as the United States Army and the early colonial administration tried to impose the English language on island residents. Between 1902 and 1948, the main language of instruction in public schools (used for all subjects except for Spanish class) was English. Currently Puerto Rico is nearly unique in having both English and Spanish as its official languages[4] (see also New Mexico). Consequently, many American English words are now found in the vocabulary of Puerto Rican Spanish. Spanglish may also be known by different regional names.

Spanglish does not have one unified dialect—specifically, the varieties of Spanglish spoken in New York, Florida, Texas, and California differ. Monolingual speakers of standard Spanish may have difficulty in understanding it.[5] It is common in Panama, where the 96-year (1903–1999) U.S. control of the Panama Canal influenced much of local society, especially among the former residents of the Panama Canal Zone, the Zonians.

Many Puerto Ricans living on the island of St. Croix speak in informal situations a unique Spanglish-like combination of Puerto Rican Spanish and the local Crucian dialect of Virgin Islands Creole English, which is very different from the Spanglish spoken elsewhere. A similar situation exists in the large Puerto Rican-descended populations of New York City and Boston.

Spanglish is spoken commonly in the modern United States, reflecting the growth of the Hispanic-American population due to immigration. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Hispanics grew from 35.3 million to 53 million between 2000 and 2012.[6] Hispanics have become the largest minority ethnic group in the US. More than 60% are of Mexican descent. Mexican Americans form one of the fastest-growing groups, increasing from 20.6 million to 34.5 million between 2000 and 2012.[6] Around 58% of this community chose California, especially Southern California, as their new home. Spanglish is widely used throughout the heavily Mexican-American and other Hispanic communities of Southern California.[7] The use of Spanglish has become important to Hispanic communities throughout the United States in areas such as Miami, New York City, Texas, and California. In Miami, the Afro-Cuban community makes use of a Spanglish familiarly known as "Cubonics," a portmanteau of the words Cuban and Ebonics, a slang term for African American Vernacular English that is itself a portmanteau of Ebony and phonics."[7]

Spanglish is known as bilingualism/semi-lingualism. The acquisition of the first language is interrupted or unstructured language input follows from the second language. This can also happen in reverse.[8]

Many Mexican-Americans (Chicanos), immigrants and bilinguals express themselves in various forms of Spanglish. For many, Spanglish serves as a basis for self-identity, but others believe that it should not exist.[9] Spanglish is difficult, because if the speaker learned the two languages in separate contexts, they use the conditioned system, in which the referential meanings in the two languages differ considerably. Those who were literate in their first language before learning the other, and who have support to maintain that literacy, are sometimes those least able to master their second language. Spanglish is part of receptive bilingualism. Receptive bilinguals are those who understand a second language but don't speak it. That is when they use Spanglish. Receptive bilinguals are also known as productively bilingual, since, to give an answer, the speaker exerts much more mental effort to answer in English, Spanish, or Spanglish.[10] Without first understanding the culture and history of the region where Spanglish evolved as a practical matter an in depth familiarizing with multiple cultures. This knowledge, indeed the mere fact of one's having that knowledge, often forms an important part of both what one considers one's personal identity and what others consider one's identity.[11]

Other places where similar mixed codes are spoken are Gibraltar (Llanito), Belize (Kitchen Spanish), Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao (along with Dutch and Papiamento).[citation needed]

Spanglish is also spoken among the Spanish-speaking community in Australia.[citation needed] It's common to hear expressions among Spanish-speaking minorities in cities like Sydney and Melbourne, like: vivo en un flat pequeño; voy a correr con mis runners; la librería de la city es grande, or words such as el rubbish bin, la vacuum cleaner, el tram, el toilet or el mobile. The same situation happens within the Spanish-speaking community of New Zealand.[12][13]


Spanglish patterns

Spanglish is informal and lacks documented structure and rules, although speakers can consistently judge the grammaticality of a phrase or sentence. From a linguistic point of view, Spanglish often is mistakenly labeled many things. Spanglish is not a creole or dialect of Spanish because, though people claim they are native Spanglish speakers, Spanglish itself is not a language on its own, but speakers speak English or Spanish with a heavy influence from the other language. The definition of Spanglish has been unclearly explained by scholars and linguists despite being noted so often. Spanglish is the fluid exchange of language between English and Spanish, present in the heavy influence in the words and phrases used by the speaker.[14] Spanglish is currently considered a hybrid language by linguists[15]—many actually refer to Spanglish as "Spanish-English code-switching", though there is some influence of borrowing, and lexical and grammatical shifts as well.[16][17]

The inception of Spanglish is due to the influx of Latin American people into North America, specifically the United States of America.[18] As mentioned previously, the phenomenon of Spanglish can be separated into two different categories: code switching or borrowing, and lexical and grammatical shifts.[19] Codeswitching has sparked controversy because it is seen "as a corruption of Spanish and English, a 'linguistic pollution' or 'the language of a "raced," underclass people'."[20] For example, a fluent bilingual speaker addressing another bilingual speaker might engage in code switching with the sentence, "I'm sorry I cannot attend next week's meeting porque tengo una obligación de negocios en Boston, pero espero que I'll be back for the meeting the week after"—which means, "I'm sorry I cannot attend next week's meeting because I have a business obligation in Boston, but I hope to be back for the meeting the week after."


Calques are translations of entire words or phrases from one language into another. They represent the simplest forms of Spanglish, as they undergo no lexical or grammatical structural change.[21] The use of calques is common throughout most languages, evident in the calques of Arabic exclamations used in Spanish.[22]


  • "to call back" → llamar p'atrás (volver a llamar)
  • "It's up to you." → Está p'arriba de ti. (Depende de ti.)
  • "to run for governor" → correr para gobernador (presentarse para gobernador)[22]

Semantic extensions

Semantic extension or reassignment refers to a phenomenon where speakers use a word of language A (typically Spanish in this case) with the meaning of its cognate in language B (typically English), rather than its standard meaning in language A. In Spanglish this usually occurs in the case of "false friends" (similar to, but technically not the same as false cognates), where words of similar form in Spanish and English are thought to have like meanings based on their cognate relationship.[23]


Spanglish English basis and meaning Standard Spanish Meaning of Spanglish word in standard Spanish
actualmente actually en realidad, realmente currently
aplicación application (written request) solicitud, postulación application (of paint, etc.)
bizarro bizarre estrambótico valiant, dashing
carpeta carpet alfombra, moqueta folder
chequear/checar to check (verify) comprobar, verificar
librería library biblioteca bookstore
mapear to mop trapear to map (rare)
parquear to park estacionar, aparcar
realizar to realize darse cuenta to carry out, to perform, to fulfill
recordar to record grabar to remember
rentar to rent alquilar, arrendar to yield, to produce a profit
wacha to watch out cuidado

An example of this lexical phenomenon in Spanglish is the emergence of new verbs when the productive Spanish verb-making suffix -ear is attached to an English verb. For example, the Spanish verb for "to eat lunch" (almorzar in standard Spanish) becomes lonchear (occasionally lunchear). The same process produces watchear, parquear, emailear, twittear, etc.[24]

Loan words

Loan words occur in any language due to the presence of items or ideas not present in the culture before, such as modern technology. The increasing rate of technological growth requires the use of loan words from the donor language due to the lack of its definition in the lexicon of the main language. This partially deals with the "prestige" of the donor language, which either forms a dissimilar or more similar word from the loan word. The growth of modern technology can be seen in the expressions: "hacer click" (to click), "mandar un e-mail" (to send an e-mail), "faxear" (to fax), "textear" (to text-message), or "hackear" (to hack). Some words borrowed from the donor languages are adapted to the language, while others remain unassimilated (e. g. "sandwich", "jeans" or "laptop"). The items most associated with Spanglish refer to words assimilated into the main morphology.[25] Borrowing words from English and "Spanishizing" them has typically occurred through immigrants.[26] This method makes new words by pronouncing an English word "Spanish style", thus dropping final consonants, softening others, and replacing certain consonants (e.g. V's with B's and M's with N's).[26]


  • "Aseguranza" (insurance)
  • "Biles" (bills)
  • "Chorcha" (church)
  • "Ganga" (gang)
  • "Líder" (leader) – considered an established Anglicism
  • "Lonchear/Lonchar" (to have lunch)
  • "Marqueta" (market)
  • "Taipear" (to type)
  • "Troca" (truck) – Widely used in most of northern Mexico as well
  • ”Mítin” (meeting) - An outdoors gathering of people mostly for political purposes.
  • ”Checar” (to check)
  • ”Escanear” (to scan) - To digitalize (e.g. a document).
  • ”Chatear” (to chat)
  • “Desorden” (disorder) - incorrectly used as “disease”.
  • ”Condición” (condition) - incorrectly used as “sickness”.


Spanish street ad in Madrid humorously showing baidefeis instead of the Spanish gratis (free).Baidefeis derives from the English "by the face"; Spanish: por la cara, "free". The adoption of English words is very common in Spain.
Spanish street ad in Madrid humorously showing baidefeis instead of the Spanish gratis (free).
Baidefeis derives from the English "by the face"; Spanish: por la cara, "free". The adoption of English words is very common in Spain.

Fromlostiano is a type of artificial and humorous wordplay that translates Spanish idioms word-for-word into English. The name fromlostiano comes from the expression From Lost to the River, which is a word-for-word translation of de perdidos al río; an idiom that means that one is prone to choose a particularly risky action in a desperate situation (this is somewhat comparable to the English idiom in for a penny, in for a pound). The humor comes from the fact that while the expression is completely grammatical in English, it makes no sense to a native English speaker. Hence it is necessary to understand both languages to appreciate the humor.

This phenomenon was first noted in the book From Lost to the River in 1995.[27] The book describes six types of fromlostiano:

  1. Translations of Spanish idioms into English: With you bread and onion (Contigo pan y cebolla), Nobody gave you a candle in this burial (Nadie te ha dado vela en este entierro), To good hours, green sleeves (A buenas horas mangas verdes).
  2. Translations of American and British celebrities' names into Spanish: Vanesa Tumbarroja (Vanessa Redgrave).
  3. Translations of American and British street names into Spanish: Calle del Panadero (Baker Street).
  4. Translations of Spanish street names into English: Shell Thorn Street (Calle de Concha Espina).
  5. Translations of multinational corporations' names into Spanish: Ordenadores Manzana (Apple Computers).
  6. Translations of Spanish minced oaths into English: Tu-tut that I saw you (Tararí que te vi).

The use of Spanglish has evolved over time. It has emerged as a way of conceptualizing one's thoughts whether it be in speech or on paper.


The use of Spanglish is often associated with an individual's association with identity (in terms of language learning) and reflects how many minority-American cultures feel toward their heritage. Commonly in ethnic communities within the United States, the knowledge of one's heritage language tends to assumably signify if one is truly of a member of their culture. Just as Spanish helps individuals identify with their Spanish identity, Spanglish is slowly becoming the poignant realization of the Hispanic-American, especially Mexican-American, identity within the United States. Individuals of Hispanic descent living in America face living in two very different worlds and need a new sense of bi-cultural and bilingual identity of their own experience. "This synergy of cultures and struggle with identity is reflected in language use and results in the mixing of Spanish and English." Spanglish is used to facilitate communication with others in both worlds; "...code-switching is not merely a random phenomena but rather a complex system composed of a variety". While some individuals believe that Spanglish should not be considered a language, it is a language that has evolved and is continuing to grow and affect the way new generations are educated, culture change, and the production of media.[28] Living within the United States creates a synergy of culture and struggles for many Mexican-Americans. The hope to retain their cultural heritage/language and their dual-identity in American society is one of the major factors that lead to the creation of Spanglish.[29]



The use of Spanglish by incorporating English and Spanish lyrics into music has risen in the United States over time. In the 1980s 1.2% of songs in the Billboard Top 100 contained Spanglish lyrics, eventually growing to 6.2% in the 2000s. The lyrical emergence of Spanglish by way of Latin American musicians has grown tremendously, reflective of the growing Hispanic population within the United States.[35]


See also



  1. ^ D'Amore, Anna Maria (2009). Translating Contemporary Mexican Texts: Fidelity to Alterity. New York: Peter Lang. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-4331-0499-2.
  2. ^ a b Lambert, James. 2018. A multitude of ‘lishes’: The nomenclature of hybridity. English World-wide, 39(1): 31. doi: 10.1075/eww.38.3.04lam
  3. ^ "Salvador Tió's 100th Anniversary". November 15, 2011.
  4. ^ Nash, Rose (1970). "Spanglish: Language Contact in Puerto Rico". American Speech. 45 (3/4): 223–233. doi:10.2307/454837. JSTOR 454837.
  5. ^ Ardila 2005, pg. 61.
  6. ^ a b Guzman, B. 2000 & US Census 2012
  7. ^ a b Rothman, Jason & Rell, Amy Beth, pg. 1
  8. ^ Lopez, Angel (2013). "Spanglish from a neurologist point of view" (PDF). El Circulo. Universidad Computense de Madrid. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  9. ^ "Towards New Dialects: Spanglish in the United States". Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  10. ^ "Does Speaking English And Spanish Make You Worse At Both Languages?". Fusion. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  11. ^ Halwachs, Dieter (1993). . "Poly-system repertoire and identity". Grazer Linguistische. pp. 39–43 71–90.
  12. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "Latin Americans – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand".
  13. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "1. – Latin Americans – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand".
  14. ^ Montes-Alcala, Cecilia, pg. 98.
  15. ^ Post, Teresa Wiltz, The Washington. "Que pasa? Spanglish is popping up everywhere". Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  16. ^ Martínez, Ramón Antonio (2010). "Spanglish" as Literacy Tool: Toward an Understanding of the potential Role of Spanish-English Code-Switching in the Development of Academic Literacy (45.2 ed.). Research in the Teaching of English: National Council of Teachers of English. pp. 124–129.
  17. ^ Individuals "communicate their thoughts and ideas using a combination of Spanish and English, often referring to this hybrid language practice as Spanglish." Martinez, Ramon Antonio. Viewing page 124. Vol. Vol. 45. Austin: National Council of Teachers of English, 2010. 124-49. Print. No. 2.
  18. ^ Morales, Ed (2002). Living in Spanglish: The Search for Latino Identity in America. Macmillan. p. 9. ISBN 0312310005.
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  20. ^ Bonnie Urciuoli, Exposing Prejudice: Puerto Rican Experiences of Language, Race, and Class (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1996), p. 38, cited by Arlene Dávila, Latinos Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), p. 168, and quoted in turn by Viviana Rojas and Juan Piñón, "Spanish, English or Spanglish? Media Strategies and Corporate Struggles to Reach the Second and Later Generations of Latinos." International Journal of Hispanic Media. N.p., Aug. 2014. Web. 04 Oct. 2015.
  21. ^ Stavans, Ilan (2000). "The gravitas of Spanglish". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 47 (7).
  22. ^ a b Montes-Alcala, pg. 107
  23. ^ Montes-Alcala, pg. 105
  24. ^ Rothman, Jason; Amy Beth Rell (2005). "A linguistic analysis of Spanglish: relating language to identity". Linguistics and the Human Sciences. 1 (3): 515–536. doi:10.1558/lhs.2005.1.3.515.
  25. ^ Montes-Alcala, pg. 106
  26. ^ a b Alvarez, Lizette (1997). "It's the talk of Nueva York: The hybrid called Spanglish". The New York Times.
  27. ^ Ochoa, Ignacio; Frederico López Socasau (1995). From Lost to the River (in Spanish). Madrid: Publicaciones Formativas, S.A. ISBN 978-84-920231-1-0.
  28. ^ Rojas, Viviana, and Juan Piñón. "Spanish, English or Spanglish? Media Strategies and Corporate Struggles to Reach the Second and Later Generations of Latinos." International Journal of Hispanic Media. N.p., Aug. 2014. Web. 04 Oct. 2015.
  29. ^ Rothman & Rell 2005, pg. 527
  30. ^ H.G.Wells, The Shape of Things to Come, Ch. 12 Archived 2011-05-10 at the Wayback Machine
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  32. ^ Steinberg, Sybil (27 December 1997). "Review of Yo-Yo Boing!". Publishers Weekly.
  33. ^ Castillo, Debra A. "Redreaming America: Toward a Bilingual American Culture". Retrieved 2020-04-21.
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  37. ^ Fuentes, Yvonne. Leading Ladies: Mujeres en la literatura hispana y en las artes. (Ed. with Margaret Parker) Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2006. (204 Pp).
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  41. ^ Christopher Gonzalez. "The Promise of Latino/a Literature (Chapter 2: Translingual Minds, Narrative Encounters: Reading Challenges in Piri Thomas's Down These Mean Streets and Giannina Braschi's Yo-Yo Boing!")". Retrieved 2020-04-21.
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External links

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