Language

^Due to their history, Puerto Ricans are possibly the world's most solidly bilingual people, conversing in both Spanish and English. In the San Juan area, you will find that almost everyone speaks English - often with an American accent picked up from years living in the States. Even in outlying areas, a surprising number of people can converse flawlessly in English, and the majority of the rest can manage basic communication with non-Spanish speakers. This means extra work if you come to the island hoping to improve your Spanish. Many Puerto Ricans will answer you in English even if you speak to them in their own language, for a variety of reasons. Some are eager to demonstrate that they can speak English, or to practice their skills. And most Puerto Ricans are simply used to speaking English when addressing gringos (many ex-pats can - and, sadly, have - spent years on the island without learning more of the idiom than, "Una cerveza, por favor" or "¿Donde está el baño?"). However, a basic knowledge of Spanish is helpful, especially if you plan to travel to remote areas of La Cordillera, or if you want to experience the culture more broadly. Overall, the more Spanish you speak the more friends you are likely to make. And, importantly, even limited attempts at Spanish can show locals that you care about and respect their culture, and that you don't automatically expect them to speak the language of los americanos.

SPANGLISH: IDIOM OF THE FUTURE?

Many Puerto Ricans are so conversant in both Spanish and English that they mix the two languages freely, as many Latinos living in the United States do. They have also "Spanish-ized" many English words, such as janguear (to hang out), chequear (to check) and jonron (a home run in baseball).

On the street and between friends, many Puerto Ricans tend to clip their pronunciation - generally favoring vowels and diphthongs over consonants, and sometimes dropping the entire beginning or ending of words. This is not done to confuse you, the visitor. It's a tendency brought to the island by early settlers from Andalusia and other poorer regions of Spain, but also influenced by the cadence of Taino and Yoruba languages. If you're standing outside a shop and an employee shouts something that sounds like TA ceh-ROW, they are most likely trying to communicate, Está cerrado (It's closed). Also, Puerto Ricans have a slightly irreverent love for their language, and if you stay on the island long enough you'll get acquainted with their colorful, evolving slang (see Spanish Words & Phrases, at the end of this book).

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