The influence of Spanish and Latinos in the American social construction is irrefutable. So much so that many phrases, although they would scare Faulkner himself, are today part of the common slang. Phrases such as “get down from the car” or “I made the line to pay for groceries” are the product of “sustained contact between Spanish and English speakers” in South Florida, according to new research published in “English World Wide.”

This linguistic variety has been recognized as native to the 305. It results from Spanish sayings “borrowed” and directly translated into English.

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

A unique dialect passed down from generation to generation

In collaboration with Kristen D’Alessandro Merii of the University at Buffalo, Carter’s study explains the linguistic phenomenon as “calques” that have transformed English and been passed down from generation to generation.

“A calque is sort of like a borrowing. A borrowing is where you […] literally take one word from one language and incorporate it into another. And everybody knows about borrowings in English. We have lots of them,” Carter said in an interview with NPR. “But a calque is sort of a loan translation, where you don’t borrow the word but the concept and translate it into the target language.”

The researchers conducted an experiment with two generations of Cuban Americans through translation exercises and sociolinguistic interviews. 

The perfect example is the phrase “bajar del carro,” which is transformed into “get down from the car,” not “get out of the car,” as it would be in traditional English. “Empanada de carne” becomes “meat empanada” instead of “beef empanada,” and so several direct translations from Spanish.

“There’s not a single language that doesn’t have words borrowed from another language,” Carter said. “Borrowing is an inescapable reality of the world’s languages. When you have two languages spoken by most of the population, you’re going to have a lot of interesting language contact happening.”

Similarly, the Spanish Latinos speak in South Florida has also mutated into direct translations, or calques, from English. “Vacunar la carpeta,” “facilidades” or “te llamo pa tras,” are ways in which Spanish has mutated.

And while this is an example of the well-known “Spanglish,” the English dialect is a phenomenon in itself.


if u are from miami please offer your thoughts. if you are from louisiana did u know that “make the block” for circle the block is a local thing bc i didnt #linguistics #languages

♬ original sound – Eleanor Stern

The beauty of a hybrid language

It is no secret that migratory movements bring with them cultural syncretism. 

The English language, for example, has multitudes of words “borrowed” from other languages, especially Spanish. “Bonanza,” “cafeteria,” “pronto,” “nada,” are just a few.

However, for the linguistic structure of a language to mutate, prolonged contact between cultures is necessary, as is the case in South Florida after decades of Latino migration.

Since the end of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, thousands of Cubans have left the island and settled in Florida. Today, 65% of Miami-Dade County’s population identifies as Latino, and the vast majority is bilingual.

But over time, second and third-generation immigrants have been fertile ground for language transformation.

Translations in both directions gave rise to calques, both semantic and phonetic. They showed once again that cultural dynamics are in constant flux.

And it is a phenomenon that has, bit by bit, permeated social boundaries, being adopted by non-Spanish speaking communities.

“We know that children and grandchildren [of Latino immigrants] tend to be bilinguals,” Carter told NPR. “But we have lots of anecdotal evidence that these forms are seeping out of that community into general South Florida, Miami, English speaking community and are being used by non-Spanish speakers, non-Latinxes, non-Cubans as well.”