Language in Puerto Rico: A Guide to the Island's Different Languages

Language in Puerto Rico varies from one another a lot. Learning local expressions and vocabulary help us feel a lot more integrated and connected to the place we visit, making our experience much better. Spanish is the language that dominates the words of the Puerto Rican population. Though, English is also widely spoken especially for attracting tourists. Hence, language plays a key role in making our trips way more feasible.

Linguistic Mix of Languages in Puerto Rico

A mixed population crowd at a festival in Puerto Rico

With influences from Amerindian words, African words and American takeover in the history of Puerto Rico, it has been able to introduce a language of its own known as Spanglish.  It is basically a blend of both English and Spanish to be used as a language to communicate. (However, it is not considered classically correct in either linguistic tradition) Spanglish’ is a mix of a Romance language and a Germanic language, thus it was used by people who were fluent in both these languages.

English was the first Germanic language ever introduced in Puerto Rico. And the type of Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico certainly had its own features, influenced by the continental Caribbean and other West Indian islands. As a result, a huge number of Puerto Rican migrants adapted to the updated speech patterns to survive.

Many of the words used in Puerto Rican Spanish are exclusive to Puerto Rico only and are not a part of the international Spanish.  With ancestral influences, a lot of towns and rivers have had Taino names, like Humacao, Utuado, Vieques and Bayamón.

Spain: Biggest Influence on Language in Puerto Rico

Spain map and its influence on Puerto Rico

Undoubtedly Spain has had the largest impact on the Puerto Rican language as well as culture. Puerto Rican Spanish shares many traits with Andalusian Spanish due to past history of colonists from Andalucía in Puerto Rico. Also some reflection of habits from Seville, Puerto Rican Spanish also pronounces words like Los dos as lo do removing the ‘s’ sound in particular.  Pronouncing ’l’ instead of ‘R' is one habit fetched from the south of Spain.

Arrivals from the Canary Islands Influencing Language in Puerto Rico

Canary Islands beach and influence of its people on Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican Spanish and the language of the Canary Islands share a lot of similarities in terms of its syntax. It was all due to a wave of colonists who arrived from the Canary Islands back in Puerto Rico. With English being imposed on the island as the main language, it was taught in public schools. Although, Spanish even today is considered the mother tongue of Porto Ricans, English is their second official language.

Most Popular Spanish Slang Words in Language in Puerto Rico

There are always some very famous slang words that every language has. Puerto Rican Spanish also has some of these which should be learnt or went through by all the visitors seeking to have a smooth experience in Puerto Rico. Here we list out the most famous and necessary 10 Puerto Rican Spanish slang words and expressions:

1. Boricua

A local name for a Puerto Rican, it is derived from the name of the island itself: Boriken or Boriquín. Boricua means “Brave and noble Lord”. Greet a Puerto Rican next time saying “Que tal, Boricua” and surprise them.

2. Tirar

Meaning, “to throw away”, tirar also means to make fun of someone. It is basically derived from the term ‘tiraera’ which indicates feuds between rappers.

3. Al Garete

Referring to something going poorly, garete literally refers to a situation when a ship is adrift or moves disastrously.

4. Chavos

Money in Puerto Rico is called Chavos. Derived from breaking down the Spanish term ‘ochavo’ (meaning eight pieces, a silver coin was divided into in the past), it is definitely one of the most important terms before heading to Puerto Rico.  

5. Bregar

Bregar means to struggle or to work hard for or maybe put in a lot of efforts to accomplish something. In Puerto Rican language, this term as a part of certain phrases is also used to depict betrayal or refer to playing dirty.

6. Wepa

It is basically an expression of joy and extreme happiness. With more of word stress on “e” and “a”, Puerto Rican people yell it to display their emotions. Any reason like a victory, a birthday or a good exam experience, you will observe this term to be used very commonly.

7. Janguiar/Janguear

Meaning to hang out, it is an English word that has retained in the Puerto Rican Spanish and is widely used even today.  

8. Acho/Chacho

Puerto Rican Spanish is all about shortening of words.  Acho and chacho both are derived from breaking down the Spanish word “muchacho” which generally means “boy”. Similar to “well” in English in terms of usage, these terms can also be used with the purpose of reflecting a gap breaker between thoughts and sentences while speaking in a flow.

9. A mí, plín

It directly depicts the attitude of “I don’t care”. Seems to have been derived from “plink” (an English term), which usually refers to shooting randomly or casually at targets by chance.

10. Corillo

Corillo is the Puerto Rican slang to refer to as friends or a group of friends. It is used widely in a variety of sentences, but with its usage one must know tha there is somewhat a mention of friends or related activities with them.

Abiding to the language of a place doesn’t just hold value until you are at that place rather it is fun and adds to one’s skills. Try out some of these slangs, the next time you wish to visit Puerto Rico.

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