Your Weekly Dose of Spanish by Spaniology: Semana 16

Published in Dungarvan Leader Page 15 on Tuesday 9th of November 2021


Pidgins and creoles are languages resulting from contact between speakers of different languages; communication necessity provokes the development of a synthesis of their native tongues, involving elements of all of them. Historically, we have seen them develop from situations of invasion, colonisation or mass immigration.

The success of this process is being proven in this very instant, as you are reading the most ubiquitous creole language in history. Indeed, English is the ultimate frankenlanguage, having developed through different stages from the contact of all peoples who inhabited England during the Middle Ages —indigenous Britons, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans— and their respective tongues, namely Britonnic (the ancestor of Welsh, Cornish and Breton), Old English, Old Norse and Old French.

The Spaniards have always had a dubious tendency to show up on different parts of the globe, whether invited or otherwise, and contact of Spanish with the indigenous tongues of those territories resulted often in the development of pidgins and creoles to facilitate communication. Let us look at some of them.

Contact of Spanish with Tagalog and other local tongues in the Philippines resulted in a language called Chavacano (from the Spanish word chabacano, meaning coarse or vulgar), which is still widely spoken and even used in official means of communication. It sounds like this:

Nuestro Tata Quien talli na cielo, Bendito el de Ustéd nombre.

In the town of Palenque in Colombia we find a curious creole named Palenquero, developed by freed African slaves and Native Americans, and which has some influence from Kongo and other Bantu languages. Here is an example:

Tata suto ke ta riba sielo, Santifikao sendá nombre si.

In Paraguay, speakers of the indigenous language Guaraní have progressively added Spanish influences until yielding a new tongue called Jopara (from the Guaraní word for mixture).

Papiamento, spoken in the Dutch Antilles, is an eclectic mixture of Caribbean indigenous languages, African tongues, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese. If a person asks you what film is on the cinema, they will say Ki pelikula tin na bioskop?, where we can make out the Spanish qué película (what film) and the Dutch bioscoop (cinema).

The Jewish population residing in Spain during the Middle Ages added Hebrew influences to Spanish and developed a language called Ladino which they took with them after their expulsion in the 15th century and can still be heard in Israel, Turkey and other places where the Sephardi community settled down.

And the most renowned of them all: Spanglish. The combo of Spanish and English developed by Mexicans in the U.S.A., and in which we can find jewels like vacumear la carpeta instead of the Spanish aspirar la alfombra (from the English "vacuum the carpet").

These are a few examples of the many pidgins and creoles that sprouted around the world wherever Spanish entered in contact with other languages. Who knows whether, after some generations, the Spanish community in Dungarvan will produce a new pidgin called Dungarvanero whose speakers will say things like Esa biba está en los horrores, shamo.

* Here is your weekly dose of Spanish: Padre nuestro que estás en el cielo, santificado sea tu Nombre. [Beginning of The Lord's Prayer, used in the Chavacano and Palenquero examples]

Sergio Fernández Redondo

Sergio hails from Asturias in northern Spain and has recently relocated to Dungarvan, where he is a Spanish teacher and PR specialist at Spaniology. Having an eclectic background in engineering, translation and linguistics, he is also a keen aficionado of history and languages.


We hope you are enjoying your weekly dose of Spanish! If you have any comments or suggestions e-mail us on

To book classes 087 654 85 20 / 083 0276119

Twitter: @spaniology | Facebook: @Spaniology | Instagram: @spaniology.tailored_learning

21 views0 comments