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Episode 31: What’s Different about Puerto Rican Spanish?

    Puerto Rican Spanish
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    Learn Spanish Con Salsa Podcast

    Episode 31

    What’s Different about Puerto Rican Spanish?

    Interview with Jen Ruiz: Travel Blogger, Amazon Bestselling Author, and TEDx Speaker

    This is part 2 of a 2-part conversation with Jen Ruiz (listen to part 1 here), travel blogger and bestselling author.  In this episode, we’ll review some Spanish words you’ll only hear in Puerto Rico and what to do when you want to practice speaking Spanish but native speakers insist on speaking to you in English instead.









    Hola bienvenidos al episodio 31. Hello and welcome to episode 31 of the Learn Spanish con Salsa Podcast. Now in our last episode, episode 30 we talked to Jen Lewis, a lawyer turned travel blogger and Amazon bestselling author about some of the destinations in Puerto Rico that you may not have heard about if you just took a cruise there or if you just ventured in San Juan. Jen gives us an insider’s view of how we can access destinations in Puerto Rico that most tourists really miss out on and don’t know about. So, if you didn’t catch episode 30 go back and listen to that. Now that is part one of today’s conversation, but in this episode, we’re going to get more into the conversation about language learning. So, Jen grew up in the U.S but she also was born in Puerto Rico. So, she talks a little bit about her experience being exposed to both Spanish and English and working on proficiency in both languages. She also talks a little bit about what makes Puerto Rican Spanish unique, right? So, there are some features of Puerto Rican Spanish that aren’t really recognizable in other places in the Spanish speaking world as well as some very specific vocabulary that you won’t hear outside of Puerto Rico. So, we talk a little bit about Puerto Rican Spanish and go into some, some slang, some vocabulary, just some words that, you only hear on the Island. So I hope you enjoy parts of this conversation. So here we are with Jen Lewis.




    Okay, now I want to ask you about Puerto Rican Spanish. So, I always kind of joke around with my friends that are from Puerto Rico about the tendency just speak Spanglish, right? Like even within like one sentence. Like they’ll go in and out of like Spanish and English. And I think more in the Capitol because it’s much more tourist focus that people tend to speak more English. But as you travel outside of that, you’ll find people that, at least in my experience they’ll know English, but they’re not really comfortable with speaking it because they may learn it in school, but they’ve never really had to use English conversationally. So, like as you kind of go outside of, of San Juan, you’ll have to be a little bit, I think, more aware of the language, but there are some uniquely Puerto Rican words that you won’t hear anywhere else. So, can you share with us just a few of those words and expressions that are uniquely Boricua?




    Sure. Well, I think Bizcocho cake is something that’s just ours. That’s something we use to describe cake. And I think most other people say torta cake or any other kind of thing. So, we say be bizcocho cake. And I think in some other dialects that actually means, you know, female genitalia. So that’s not great. But we use that word. Chavo so like chavo, we use that to mean money, so no tengo chavo I don’t have money. So, and I don’t even know what other people would use that for, but I know that that’s not common. Most people say dinero money or something of the sort.








    Yes, that’s what my friends was, were mentioning. They live in Puerto Rico now and they’ve been having some difficulties adjusting to some of the dialects. Pantallas it’s what we call earrings. I think a lot of other people call them. Aretes. Okay. So we, we say Pantallas. Yes. So, there’s a lot of like little things and you wouldn’t, I don’t know if it’s because of the connection with English because so many people are taught English. In school it’s mandatory to learn it so there is that kind of integration and the swapping between the two languages and maybe that’s what causes new words. But for the most part, I think it’s just, I don’t know why they tried to be different. I think maybe it could be also the mumbling. A lot of people joke and say that we don’t pronounce our L’s or we pronounce our R’s like L’s, you know, like Puelto Rico or whatever. It’s crazy. I can say my R’s, Puerto Rico but you know, they like to just kind of point those things out. So Revolú that would mean like a big mess.




    Like you see? No, like we just make about things. Oh, baby white. That’s the only thing that about waste. We use that to mean baby wipes. So like we dab it await that. Dabaways. I don’t know why, but I know I’ve always had a pack. Dabaways in the bathroom because that’s like mentally snuff. So, I mean, I think that that’s maybe just the mix of having that, like I said, that familiarity between English and Spanish and that blend. And I do think it’s very comfortable for me, actually the only other place I found that was like that, that really interchange between Spanglish so much and why I ended up spending so many years there was South Florida because they have so many and just different Hispanic cultures there that they all kind of speak in between Spanish and English and entered great between the two and easily in swap. So, it’s nice for me to see that and it’s actually pretty comforting for me to be able to speak in a Spanglish sentence. So, it’s funny that you mentioned that.




    Yeah. And I think it’s just something that depending on where you’re from, like some people who you know, maybe from different parts of like South America or even different islands where it’s not as integrated, especially like Cuba where they don’t have, I mean there’s obviously people with families back in the U.S but it’s not as integrated with the U.S culture as other places. So yeah, I think some people do even need a Spanish speaker when they go to Puerto Rico. They’re like, what are you talking about? I know a couple of words I came across. So, one that was really funny for me is actually my favorite fruit. And I always tell people about this. So, like the first time I had Parcha was it in Puerto Rico, I was like, Oh this is great. So, it’s passionfruit in English. Right. So, cause we don’t really have that fruit in my region, cause I’m sort of up North so it’s a little bit cold up here for it to grow passionfruit I guess.




    So, those are first time I ever had and I was like so excited about it. And the next time I traveled I went to Dominican Republic and I was like, Oh, I want a, una batido de parcha. And the guy looked at me like Parcha? and I was like, yeah, like, and there’s a cart right there with like the picture of the passion fruit on there. So I knew like I was what I was talking about and he looked at me like with this rude look and he was like Chinola. I was like, Oh well, okay. Well, I guess that’s what they call it in DR. Right. So like, but as I found out, as I travel more, apparently Puerto Rico was the only place where they use the word Parcha and they, I think it’s maracuyá in most other places in Venezuela I’ve heard Parchita. But that was like the first time I’ve heard like anything close to that. And another funny one, another fruit one. Right. So for oranges naranja in most other places in Puerto Rico’s, China, right. I always wonder like, what is the reason for that?




    My friends are, the friends I just mentioned is, so they’re wonderful. They are from Spanish and go and they are Jim and Maya and they’re from, well he’s from the U.S and she’s from Mexico together they speak Spanish and they live in Puerto Rico now, but they’re just, they’re actually went to an orange festival and asked that question and made a video. And the guy said it’s because the boxes, when they came in the oranges, they came from China. So, they were labeled China. So people didn’t know and they just opened the box of what they assumed were China’s and that’s how it got its name.





    Yeah, I’ve heard that story before too. I’ve heard that before too, and I thought that that was interesting, but I know there’s always like a debate or dispute about, you know, the origins of things like that. So was just kinda curious. Yeah, I’ve heard that one about the boxing Chino, which is a very, very Puerto Rican thing I think. Okay. Case. So hopefully folks got some tips on places to go in Puerto Rico and a little bit about some of the words you might hear while you’re there. I know one thing I always tell people too, like you mentioned about San Juan. I’m glad you said that because they are used to getting tourists in that area and if you want to practice your Spanish, you really do need to leave San Juan. Unfortunately, that’s been my experience just because when people see you, depending on how you look or just because you’re in that area, they may assume that you’re a tourist and they just will start talking to you in English. Cause people that, that work in the tourist region are usually proficient in English more so than people that live in other parts of the islands. I would definitely say, you know, go uh, you know, to Piñones, go to Boquido, go somewhere else if you really are just looking for exposure to the Spanish cause you made not find that in San Juan especially depending on how quote unquote American you look, however people determined that. Right. So




    I agree. And that’s something I’ve even experienced than I cause I’m look very American and so most people will initially talk to me in English. I actually try to switch to Spanish because it’s, I think it makes people feel more comfortable or at least I like to always make an effort when I’m somewhere to speak the local language and that no exception, you know, for home as well. And I think just for me as, as a second generation, so to speak, because I was born on the Island, but I was raised here in the U.S but I had most of my formal schooling here and my mom would be so proud that I managed to come out without an accent, you know, cause that’s, that was the goal but it is for them when they see me, they assume that I’m American and they talk to me initially in English.




    Or that I’m being all Anglo. So I, and it’s difficult because I have, my Spanish isn’t perfect, so, so conscious because I think that’s what happens when you grow up in the States and you want to speak Spanish, but you get a little bit nervous about your Spanish. And I think that’s why it’s so good to be able to go and practice. And I, that’s why I try to switch over it and speak as much advantage as I can while I’m in Puerto Rico, para acostumbrarme get used to it, you know, to get used to it and, yeah, and hope that I don’t make major mistakes that are really embarrassing and just the wrong word.




    Yeah. You know, it’s interesting you mentioned that because I think that assumptions that people make in language learning are really interesting, right? Like, so I have friends that, you know, I guess everyone kind of has a certain look to them. Right. And I’m actually had met someone who was from Northern Africa for Morocco and she’s very sort of fair skinned because a, there is a, there’s a population that area that is, it looks pretty much like light-skinned African-Americans, right? Like that’s kinda how they look. But a lot of people when you kind of move over here, they’ll think that you’re just Puerto Rican, right? Like you just have like, Oh, you look Puerto Rican, right? Whatever that means cause Puerto Rican is coming in all different shades and colors. But there’s sort of like this JLo, I guess, stereotypes. So, she would say people would come up to her and just start speaking Spanish as soon as she was in Puerto Rico and she’s from Morocco she’s like, what are you talking about?




    And then me while like I go to Puerto Rico and I start you know, tried to switch to Spanish and people were looking at me like, okay, obviously you’re getting like I’m going to talk to any English. So it’s very rarely, it’s really interesting. Especially you sort of like having that as your heritage and that’s where you’re from. And then people still judging you based on a look or how you sound or how you come across. I think it’s really interesting It can be frustrating for some people. I know some people get really angry about that, especially if they’re trying to make an effort. But I always tell people not to take it personally. Right. Like you said, you’re trying to make it easier for them, but they’re all still trying to make it easier for you, especially if they can tell Spanish isn’t your first language.




    And sometimes, especially if they’re in the hospitality industry, they’re trained to make the guest feel comfortable or the, you know, the customer feel comfortable. So, have you switched to Spanish and they can tell that you’re not a native speaker. They may still speak to you in English. which is why I say just, you know, get out of that all together and just like go like meet some normal people and just try to have a conversation. They will appreciate your efforts. So, I just want to point that out cause it’s interesting that you experienced that as well.




    Yeah. I mean I think you never know who does and I think a lot of people would, if my mom would have, like I said, it was her goal to make it so that people would assume that I was American. She has experienced so much discrimination with her name and her accent, just being, you know, something different than what people were used to. And so it’s something that you wouldn’t expect, even the people where you would think that the way that I am is a gift. Like it’s still a little bit hurtful at times to be able to go into feel like other in a lot of places. And I think that’s just a, a problem that a lot of second-generation people face where they’re kind of having two different heritage heritages, and I definitely feel as much of an American as I do Puerto Rican.




    You know, I listen to reggaeton music every day as I, you know, drive on my way to a 4th of July picnic or something. So really like I, I love both and I embraced both and I, I feel lucky to be able to have that exposure to different cultures. I feel so lucky to have been born with a knowledge of a second language essentially because I was, you know, raised in that area so it sticks with you. My brother even, he was two when we left and he still remembers a lot of what he learned. So, I was there till I was six and it was essentially my first language before I switched over and did all my formal schooling in English. So, I remember a lot of Spanish and I can understand it and I didn’t have to work for it at any point in time. Whereas the people who learned Spanish, I have so much appreciation for that because it’s not easy to learn another language and it’s not easy to immerse yourself somewhere else. And it takes a lot of bravery to put yourself out there and to, you know, really submerse yourself somewhere else. So, I applaud that and I’m so glad that you’re enabling people to do that.




    Well, thank you for sharing your insights about Puerto Rico and about language learning. So now I’m going to switch gears and we’re gonna move on into our quick by around, where I asked you five questions in Español. So, and these are just questions for you to answer off the top of your head. So, ¿lista?




    Estoy un poquito nerviosa pero si.

    I’m a Little nervous but yes.




    Está bien y pregunta número 1: ¿Cuál es tu canción favorita en Español?

    Well, question number 1: What is your favorite song in Spanish?




    Cualquier canción de Daddy Yankee o Wisin Y Yandel. Me encanta el reggaetón.

    Any song of Daddy Yankee or Wisin Y Yandel. I love reggaetón.




    Ah si, es muy boricua ¿No? Pregunta número 2: ¿Cuál es tu palabra favorita en español? Puede ser una palabra que no exista en el inglés o solo una palabra que te gusta.

    Oh yes, very boricua right? Question number 2: What is your favorite word in Spanish? It can be a word that doesn’t exist in English or just a word that you like.




    A lo mejor mañana porque es también como nosotros pensamos que los problemas pueden esperar hasta mañana. Me gusta mañana.

    Maybe “tomorrow” because it’s like we think too, problems can wait until tomorrow. I like tomorrow.




    Y pregunta número 3: ¿Cuál fue la última cosa que leíste, miraste o escuchaste en español?

    Question number 3: What is the last thing you read, watched or listened in Spanish?




    La última cosa bueno la música en mi estación de pandora que tengo todas las estaciones de todos los artistas que ya dije sus nombres. Pero también una película en Netflix que estaba muy buena, no me acuerdo del nombre pero era de un hombre que tenía una madre que descubrió y se perdió su memoria pero era muy chistoso no me acuerdo pero una película en Netflix, en español. Netflix tiene buenas películas en español. Tienes que buscarla, pero es de ese hombre de Ieth comedy, comedia.

    The last thing I heard was my Pandora station, it’s where I have the stations of all the artists I mentioned above. But also a movie in Netflix that was very good, I don’t remember the name but it was about a man that had a mother that discovered that she lost her memory, but it was very funny. I don’t remember the name but it was on Netflix. Netflix has very good movies in Spanish, you’ll have to look it up. It’s comedy.




    No se si he visto eso antes pero bueno ok. Y número 4: Saca tu teléfono y traduce el último texto que recibiste al español.

    I don’t know if I have watched it before but ok. Number 4: Pull out your phone and translate the last text you received to Spanish.




    Tengo aquí “Te veo la próxima vez” era de alguien que nosotros conocimos en Orocovis cuando estábamos haciendo el zipline. Mi amigo Juan de Puerto Rico nuevo.  Te veo la próxima vez sería I’ll see you next time.

    I’ve got “Te veo la próxima vez” it was from someone we met in Orocovis we were doing zipline. My friend Juan from Puerto Rico nuevo. Te veo la próxima vez it’ll be “I’ll see you next time”




    Ok bueno y la última pregunta, bueno yo no sé si eso es una buena pregunta para ti porque tienes otra carrera ahora pero, si no tuvieras que trabajar ¿Qué harías con tu tiempo extra?

    Ok well, last question, I don’t know if it is a good question for you because you have another career now but if you didn’t have to work, what would you do with your free time?




    Bueno todavía trabajo mucho, ahora trabajo más que cuando era abogada, por lo menos en ese momento podía apagar después de la 5 de la tarde, ahora trabajo hasta la una de la noche todavía, quedándome despierta por todos los pensamientos de lo que tengo que hacer pero con más tiempo me gustaría, me gusta leer mucho, y me gustaría leer unos libros hace años que no he leído libros solo para mi, nada que tengo que aprender nada del libro, tu sabe, alguna fantasía, algo así, que a la personas le gusta mucho como los Game of Thrones, cosas así. Me gustaría coger un libro como Harry Potter que eso siempre me gustaba mucho y por años estaba siempre saliendo a las diferentes fiestas que tenia cuando saliera un libro nuevo y eso lo extraño o sea porque yo puedo leer por horas y quedarme, me voy como para el mundo del libro y es algo que extraño mucho. 

    Well, I still work a lot. Now I work more than when I was a lawyer. At that time at least I could turn off after 5 in the afternoon, now I still work until 1am, just lying awake thinking about the things that I have to do but with more time, I like to read, and I’d like to read books that it’s been awhile that I haven’t read. Just for me, nothing that I have to learn from a book, you know, like fantasy something like that, something that people like a lot like Game of Thrones. I’d like to pick a book like Harry Potter that is something that I’ve always liked and for many years I was always going to different parties every time a new book was out and I miss that because I can stay hours reading, I get inside the book and that’s something I miss.




    Wow, interesante porque para mi yo no puedo leer mucho, yo tengo que escuchar audiolibros porque yo no puedo leer porque me pone a dormir todo el tiempo, no puedo con horas no.

    Wow, that’s interesting because for me, I can’t read a lot, I have to listen to audiobooks because I can’t read I’d be asleep all the time. Many hours I can’t.




    Los dos son buenos, los dos son buenos. Tener algún tipo de historia que te transporta a un sitio diferente, eso es lo importante.

    Both are Good. If you have some sort of story that takes you to a different place, that’s what matters.




    Ok, entonces gracias por participar. Thank you Jen for participating in the quickfire round. So now as we wrap up, can you let everyone know how they can get in touch with you on social media if they want to follow you and get more information about your books on Amazon and all of that?




    Sure. So you can find me. My website is https://jenonajetplane.com/. And you can find me at that same handle at Jen on a jet plane on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and I always love to connect. My books are on Amazon under Jen Ruiz.




    Okay, perfect. So thank you for taking time to join us on Learn Spanish con Salsa Podcast.




    Thank you. Thank you so much for having me here. I’m really happy that we were able to get together.




    So, there you have it. Some Puerto Rican Spanish words as well as some encouragement. I hope that what you heard from Jen, if you’ve had the experience like she talked about of people just sort of assuming that you speak English based on how you look even though you speak to them in Spanish. I hope hearing that from Jen who was actually born in Puerto Rico helps you become a little less self-conscious about that if you have a similar experience. I know people have mentioned that to me before, that they get offended if someone speaks to them in English. And I hope I’m hearing her perspective and her story will really let you understand that, you know, that’s just a part of language learning and just to start speaking Spanish and see how people respond. I think that you’ll find that the more that you do that you will be more successful and also the better your Spanish will get with more practice.




    Okay. So, also if you are interested in learning more Puerto Rican, Spanish, I know we mentioned a few words in this episode, but there are so many, many more words. They’re actually over a hundred words that we have documented so far. And probably many, many more than that, uh, of Spanish that is just spoken in Puerto Rico. So, if you’re interested in learning more Puerto Rican, Spanish, I’m going to offer you a free trial of our Puerto Rican Spanish course. Now this breaks down Puerto Rican, Spanish with dialogues with native speakers. We have flashcards with audio that go over some vocabulary as well as a phrase book that covers over 100 uniquely Puerto Rican Spanish words. So that is all included in the Puerto Rican Spanish course. So, if you’re interested in that go to http://www.puertoricanspanish101.com/trial that’s http://www.puertoricanspanish101.com/trial T.R.I.A.L and you will be able to sign up right away for a free trial, no credit card required.




    So again, if you’re interested, check that out at http://www.puertoricanspanish101.com/trial, and we’ll get you full access to some of the lessons in our Puerto Rican Spanish 101 course. That’s it for me. And if you haven’t already put Puerto Rico on your travel bucket list, I suggest that you add this beautiful Island to the list of places that you’d like to visit, especially if you’re from the U.S you don’t need a passport to go there. As Jen mentioned. It’s definitely a place that, it’s a really, it’s a really beautiful place. One of my favorite places to visit and travel to actually. So again, http://www.puertoricanspanish101.com/trial and I will see you in the next episode. As always, I hope something that you heard today will take you one step closer from beginner to bilingual. Hasta la próxima. Until next time



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