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Puerto Rico's main language is Spanish. English is taught in schools as a foreign language, tourism industry employees are required to have English as a second language since 80% of tourists come from the US . Spanish is the language that is spoken by approximately 98% of the island (2000 Census) and the English is mainly spoken by expats from the North, by students that study it in school, (English is a very commonly taught language) and by people returning to the island from New York or Miami (many Puerto Ricans work in the U.S. in Miami or New York City for business and oftentimes people on the island have relatives there.)
The pace of the Spanish spoken here is usually very fast for non-native speakers, even those familiar with another dialect: don't be discouraged if you feel you are having a hard time keeping up!! A characteristic of Caribbean Spanish is that it is spoken quickly at a clip so no, you are not imagining things. (Remember, this used to be an area focused on trade and the swift guy usually won at auction.) Just listen very carefully and eventually you WILL get it (listening to the local music before your trip helps.)
Below are some common phrases to help you get through if you get lost. Good Luck!
Hola - Hello éúáíó
Gracias -- Thank you (although colloquailly pronouced "gracia")
¿Cómo está Ud? - How are you?
¿Cuánto es? / Cuánto cuesta? -- How much is it?/How much does it cost?
Habla inglés? -- Do you speak English?
¿..... frances? -Do you speak French?
¿.....alemán? Do you speak German?
Por favor -- please
No comprendo, no se entiendo --1) I don't understand (this thing, fact) 2) I don't understand (you)
Hable lento, por favor -- Please speak more slowly
Lo siento -- I'm sorry
No lo sé-- I don't know
Aqui está -- Here it is
Sí -- yes
No -- no
esta mañana -- this morning
esta tarde -- this afternoon
esta noche -- tonight
¿Qué calle es esta? What street is this?
Cuán lejos queda? -- How far is...
Aeropuerto -- airport
¿Qué hora es? -- What time is it?
baños (pron. BAN-yoes) /toilet -- toilet,bathroom
¡Ayuda! /¡ Auxilio! -- Help!
¡.... Ladrón!--Help! Thief! (normally you will be safe, but this helps in the rare event somebody steals something from you)
¡Llame a la policia! -- call the police
¡Llame a un médico! -- call a doctor
barato -- cheap
caro -- expensive
Quiero pedir / Quiero ordenar -- I'd like to order:
Mi amigo quisiera ordenar---my friend would like to order:
carne -- meat; platanos maduros--sweet plantains
cerdo -- pork; coco--coconut
filete, bistec -- steak; guayabas--guavas
jamon -- ham; plátanos--bananas, plantains (context important)
salchicha--sausage mofongo-native dish made of mashed plantain, broth, garlic and olive oil and then combined with meat or seafood.
cangrejo or juey--crab mantequilla--butter
lechon asado -- roast pork; tenedor--fork
bacalao-salt cod cuchara, cucharita--spoon, teaspoon
a la brasa/a la parilla -- charcoal grilled; cuchilla--knife
bien cocido -- well done; platos--plates
poco concido -- rare; la cena--dinner
termino medio -- medium; almuerzo--lunch
pollo -- chicken; desayuno--breakfast
camarones -- shrimp;
langosta -- lobster;
verduras -- vegetables;
fruta -- fruit; flan -- caramel custard; postre -- dessert;
azucar -- sugar;
pimienta -- black pepper;
huevos -- eggs;
pan -- bread.
Deme la cuenta, por favor -- give me the check please
calle -- street
plaza -- square
mapa de carreteras -- road map (Necessito un mapa de carreteras -- I need a road map!)
¿Dónde esta? -- where is it?
pare -- stop
puedo usar su telefono? -- may I use your telephone?
Estoy perdido -- I'm lost
La playa--the beach
el mar--the sea, ocean
de ida y vuelta--roundtrip
casa de cambio--exchange house (for currency.)
uno -- one trece--thirteen setenta--seventy
dos -- two catorce--fourteen ochenta--eighty
tres -- three quince--fifteen noventa--ninety
cuatro -- four diesiseis--sixteen cien(to)-one hundred
cinco -- five diesisiete--seventeen
seis -- six diesiocho--eighteen
siete -- seven diesinueve--nineteen
ocho -- eight veinte--twenty
nueve -- nine treinta-thirty
diez -- ten cuarenta--forty
Gracias -- thank you
Buenos Dias - Good Morning
Buen Dia -- Good Morning (is more colloquial)
Buenos Tardes - Good Night
Como se dice? - How do you say...
izquierda -- left
la derecha -- right
Estoy buscando solamente, gracias -- I am only looking, thank you
(if you happen to be wandering through a street market or by a cafe/restaurant)
(If you have a Blackberry, consider downloading the Navita Translator)
Puerto Rican Spanish is a subdialect of Caribbean Spanish: it has a few unique features found nowhere else and derives most of its vocabulary from Taino, African, and Spanish dialects from various parts of Spain (read: there never has been an "official" version handed down from some authority as in France or Spain and everything that could go in, did, including some recent additions from US English over the last hundred years.) Unlike most dialects of Spanish, it has contractions (more in line with influences from English). For Europeans with some familiarity with Castillian Spanish from Spain, let it be known that the vosotros form of the verb is almost NEVER used: like most of North America, such formalities died out a long time ago, right alongside English "thee" and "thou-" People will mostly use Usted when they first meet you and then let their guard down as they get to know you and are less formal as a whole than in Spain. It should also be mentioned that /s/ is never pronounced /th/ like it is in Spain, but occasionally is dropped if it ends a word.
Here follow a few words or phrases you will only hear on the island. Some do not posess the same meaning they do in standard Spanish or in other dialects and others will not be translated directly owing to their foul meaning and to keep them out of the mouths of certain uncautious people.
el coco--the head
un bobo--idiot, moron
Cabrón--closest translation is jacka-- or a--hole. If directed at you, you have angered somebody mightily. Directing this word at somebody else is another story: use it at your own risk because in Puerto Rico, (unlike neighboring Mexico) it has an unfriendly meaning where your spouse might be cheating on you and you are a lesser person for it.(You can say it, but you might be missing teeth later as you have wounded someone's pride and honor.)
Pa' lla--contraction of para alla ( meaning: over there)
Pa'ca--contraction of para aca (meaning: over here.)
¡Carajo! -Swear world roughly on par with the f-word in vulgarity, avoid unless a brick falls on your foot or the equivalent.
Iguaca--A rare parrot usually found in El Yunque, the Puerto Rican Amazon. Endangered. Be quiet in its presence as it is very easily frightened.Never attempt to pet, feed, or photograph this bird with a flash as it is very sensitive and a symbol of the island that the government is trying to save from endangerment.
Mariposa--literally means "butterfly," slang means an offensive term for a gay man.
Coquí-- 1) A very small frog that often hides in the foliage in Puerto Rico noted for its ability to sing co-KEE, co-KEE in large choruses expecially after a rainstorm 2) Slang term for a Puerto Rican.
Un lambon--a toady.
limber--a treat made of frozen juice or coconut milk. (Corruption of the name Charles LINDBERGH.)
'Mano-roughly means "dude" if used to address someone.
Echar un polvo--Normally used by men. If you are a lady and the drunk guy in the pub is saying he wants to do this to you to his friend SLAP HIM. He is up to no good and is not interested in being un caballero (a gentleman.)
Me cago en tu mai (pai)--This is a vulgarism usually said during traffic by taxi drivers or sometimes average citizens. Though its exact meaning will not be translated here, it does involve defecating on someone's parent. If this is directed at you, you might be going too slowly in your car: double check your speed and that you have obeyed traffic signs.
Zafaito--Out of place.Usually said when somebody has been disrespectful.