ORLANDO, Fla. — The hybrid of English and Spanish — Spanglish — considered a linguistic phenomenon and a prominent form of communication in Latino neighborhoods, has evolved into a unique dialect, pushing institutions of higher education to study its impact among Spanish-speaking descendants.

What You Need To Know

  • The Pew Research Center has found that 63% of first-generation U.S. Latinos say they use Spanglish at least sometimes

  • According to the study, Spanglish emerges when “Spanish-dominant participants make robust use of calque expressions"

  • Experts say Spanglish is prominent in areas where the Latino population is large, and changes based on which Spanish-speaking community dominates the area

Its profound impact has resonated strongly among first- and second-generation U.S. Latinos, and is serving to break language barriers among recipients who feel equally comfortable speaking both English and Spanish and combining the languages into one.

“I focus a lot on my childhood, and I focus a lot on relatable content that is not only relatable to me but also to my culture and my audience,” said content creator Cisco Viera, who’s amassed millions of followers on social platforms Tik Tok and Instagram by posting skits in Spanglish that highlight Latino culture.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Viera is part of the 63% of first-generation U.S. Latinos who say they use Spanglish at least sometimes, the Pew Research Center has found. At 72%, second-generation Hispanics are more likely than third- or higher-generation Hispanics to say they use Spanglish at least sometimes.  

Viera, who goes by the name Cisco on social media, ventured into content creation at the beginning of the pandemic with the goal of teaching others outside of Latin America what Latino culture is and how it is practiced in the contiguous United States.

He notably launched the Tik Tok series "Translating Headphones" this summer, where he directly translates famous songs in Spanish and showcases how both languages have infiltrated American pop culture.

“People love it. It’s comedy but at the same time its educational,” said Viera, whose skits on social media often poke fun at Latino stereotypes. “A lot of people are learning from those videos, which wasn’t my purpose in the beginning, but right now it’s something that I’m really, you know, happy and proud of.”

According to the 2022 study, "Spanish-influenced lexical phenomena in emerging Miami English," Spanglish emerges when “Spanish-dominant participants make robust use of calque expressions.”

The study was authored by Florida International University sociolinguist Phillip M. Carter, and Kristen D'Alessandro Merii from the University of Buffalo.

For example, rather than saying “Quiero alquilar un carro” — Spanish for “I want to rent a car” — Spanglish speakers borrow the word rent and colloquially translate it to say “Quiero rentar un carro.”

In the study, the authors found English phrases specific to Miami — where Spanglish is widely spoken — to have evolved from direct translations of Spanish. The study illustrated the widely used Miami-specific phrase of “bajarse del carro,” which directly translates to “get down from the car,” rather than “get out of the car.”

“When we conduct research like this, it’s a reminder there aren’t ‘real’ words or ‘pretend’ words. There are only words. And all the words come from somewhere and someplace,” Carter said. “Every word has a history — that goes for all words spoken in Miami.”

The discovery is one that some professors throughout the state have echoed in their language curriculums and are beginning to further teach at institutions of higher education.

According to Dr. Francisco J. Fernández-Rubiera, associate professor at the University of Central Florida who teaches the history of Spanish, Spanglish is prominent in areas where the Latino population is large, and changes based on which Spanish-speaking community dominates the area.

“The Spanglish you hear in New York City is different than the one you hear in Miami or in Los Angeles, and that’s’ because the Latinos who live in those cities speak Spanish with different accents and therefore produce a different variation of Spanglish,”Rubiera said. “The Cuban in Miami speaks Spanish with a different accent than a Salvadoran in Washington, D.C., and that equally translates to the words Spanglish speakers coin in these cities.”  

However, despite Spanglish gaining recent prominence in college curriculums, Rubiera said it’s important to teach individuals that while there is a grammatically correct way to speak Spanish, languages continuously evolve and it’s only a matter of time until words in Spanglish deemed incorrect are eventually noted in dictionaries.

“It’s important to understand ... that it takes time for languages to change,” said Rubiera. “I don’t perceive Spanglish in the short term to conspire to be a variety of the language, despite there being a push for it. But in the long run, you will continue to see bilingual communities that are emerging here to have their own variety of Spanish and Spanglish.”