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Spanglish is a linguistic phenomenon spoken by millions of people around the world. It is mainly found in the Southern United States, and over the years, it has come to acquire truly remarkable cultural significance.

spanglish lingua

Spanglish: what it is and where it is spoken

Spanglish is a hybrid language, resulting from the overlap of English and Spanish, and contamination between the two.

It has developed, and is currently in use, in areas on language borders, such as geographical areas where Spanish speakers and English speakers coexist, i.e., on the border between Mexico and the United States.

When was Spanglish originally created?

Spanglish owes its name to a Puerto Rican journalist, poet, and essayist Salvador Tiò, who coined the term in the late 1940s to describe the hybrid language spoken by Latinos living in the USA.

To understand when Spanglish was originally created, however, we need to travel back to 1898, when Puerto Rico officially became part of the USA. For the 50 years that followed, the Spanish-speaking population of Puerto Rico was exclusively taught in  English. This resulted in the two languages mixing, thus giving rise to ‘code-switching’, otherwise known as Spanglish.

Why Spanglish is spoken

Code-switching consists of switching from one language to another in the same sentence.

The reason why Spanglish was created, quickly spread, and is now a living and thriving entity with an ever-increasing number of speakers, is because it works very well on a communicative and cultural level.

These days, Spanglish gives a cultural and linguistic identity to people straddling two cultures who want to make aspects of both languages their own. But who actually speaks Spanglish? Mainly first- and second-generation immigrants.

Practical examples

The two languages come into contact, mix, and influence each other in a variety of different ways. One such example is the translation of typical expressions from one language to the other. This is what is happening when you hear someone say ‘te veo’ in Spanish (literally ‘see you’) to mean ‘see you again soon’. This is a literal translation of the English expression ‘see you’.

Another example is calque, i.e., loaning a word from one language and using it according to the rules of another. To say ‘let’s go and see’, Spanglish uses the phrase ‘vamos a uochàr‘ which is influenced by the English verb ‘to watch’ and the infinitive ending used for Spanish verbs.

For the reasons listed above, translating in and out of Spanglish is not as simple as translating from Italian into Spanish. Spanglish is not a codified language and has no precise grammatical or syntactic rules. Instead, it continues to be moulded and shaped by its speakers.