A Language Lesson

Please welcome author Raquel V. Reyes to the blog today. She teaches us some Spanglish, as well as a bit about Miami, FL, where she lives. Don’t miss her upcoming cozy, Mango, Mambo, and Murder! –Alexia

Spanglish: A Primer

September 15th through October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month, aka Latinx Heritage Month. Why is it split between two months? Your guess is as good as mine, but it seems fitting to be half in one and half in another. If you are like me, a second-generation-hyphenated-cultures American, you live with a foot in each culture.

¡Hola! I’m Raquel V. Reyes, and I’m Cuban-American. I live in Miami, where 70% of the population identifies as Hispanic/Latinx. My daily life is filled with Spanish and English—sometimes within the same sentence. So, when I was developing the Miami-born, Cuban-American main character for my culinary cozy, I knew she’d be bilingual. And I knew there would have to be Spanish in the book to make it realistic. In a 2015 survey reported by WLRN, an NPR affiliate, there were 128 languages spoken in Miami. 2.7 million people in the metro area are bilingual or multilingual. So, yes, my MC, Miriam Quiñones, had to speak English and Spanish and other languages like Kreyòl (Haitian Creole) had to be given representation on the pages. It’s just normal life in the city of Miami, where our voting ballots and other official notice are in all three languages. I love that about my city.

Miami Sky by alyssa BLACK. Creative Commons- https://www.flickr.com/photos/alyssablack/24619157150/                                                                                                                                        

When you read Mango, Mambo, and Murder, I hope you go with the flow and let the languages color the tropical background. Most of the non-English dialogue is translated by context clues. (It is a mystery after all.) But to get you comfortable with everyday life in Miami, I offer you this Spanglish primer. Spanglish is the seamless use of both English and Spanish within a conversation due to the bilingual brain constantly translating. So, if the brain can’t find the word in English, it will use the Spanish equivalent and vice versa. 

Ay– Oh

¡Basta! – Enough!

Chica– Girl

De verdad– For real. It can also be used like really.

Mi’ja– This is a shortened version of mi hija/ my daughter. It is used casually, like saying, “Girlfriend, let me tell you.” Also, as an endearment by your female relatives.

Pobrecito/a– poor thing

Por favor (Sometimes truncated as Porfa) – Please

¿Qué es esto? – What is this?

Venga– Come here. Come on. Hurry up.

Here is an example of how those words and phrases might be used in a Spanglish conversation.

“¿Qué es esto?” Alma asked, pointing to the pile of boxes.

“Mi’ja, I’m trying to unpack while keeping a four-year-old entertained.” Miriam put a stack of dishes into the cabinet.

“Pobrecito, Manny. Chica, why didn’t you ask for help?”

“Porfa. You have no kid experience.”

“Ay, basta. I’m taking Manny to the park so you can get this kitchen organized.” Alma put her sunglasses on.

“¿De verdad?”

“Yes, really. Venga, Manny. We’re going to the park.”

Raquel V. Reyes writes stories with Latina characters. Her Cuban-American heritage, Miami, and the Caribbean feature prominently in her work. Raquel is a co-chair for SleuthFest. Her short stories appear in various anthologies, including Mystery Most Theatrical, Midnight Hour, and Trouble No More. Mango, Mambo, and Murder is the first in the Caribbean Kitchen Mystery series. Find her across social media platforms as @LatinaSleuths.

Your Turn

Do you speak any multi-lingual languages? What are your favorite multi-lingual books? Comment here, on Facebook, or on Twitter.


    1. You would say “Cuando quieras” or something like that. And I’m not multilingual, but a Spanish woman who speaks a bit of English 😉

  1. Having spent several winters in Mexico, I really enjoyed this lesson. I can hear the vendors driving up and down the streets calling “Venga” on their loudspeakers. Looking forward to reading your book. Miami is a country unto itself!

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