It’s back to school time! During my school years, I remember that the list of school supplies and books was long. My mom’s favorite place to get everything at the best prices was in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. Today the dynamic has changed a little and we have mega stores in Puerto Rico that open for extended hours and carry everything.
Last week, I visited my beautiful island during the height of back-to-school shopping (classes start in early August). I stopped at this major pharmacy that was ready for the season with an expanded section of office and school supplies. They also prepared a handout with a check list of basic school supplies materials just in case you might forget something. Excellent sales strategy!
But I was a bit shocked with this list of school supplies in Spanish put together by this store, it had too many mistakes! I know that nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes and a typo, or an accent mark is forgiven to anyone. But it seems that the person who wrote this list must go “back to school.” On the other hand, despite the misspellings, it is also a good example that reflects the Puerto Rican Spanish vocabulary that locals use colloquially. Here is the list:
The use of Spanglish and brand names
The list provides a series of typical examples of Spanglish in Puerto Rico (I circled them blue). I can’t be that harsh with about the extensive use of Spanglish because if they were to use the real Spanish terms nobody would know what they were saying. The same happens with a couple of brand names that are used as the generic word for a product.
1. shampoo: This word has been adapted to Spanish as champú.
2. compass: compás.
3. construction paper: You may hear the translation papel de construcción or in other countries cartulina and cartoncillo, but construction papel definitely not.
4. matre: It is the common word for “matress” in Puerto Rico. In Spanish it is colchón.
5. liquid paper: This is an example of a brand name that is used to identify the product. In Spanish it is corrector líquido.
6. hand sanitizer: In Puerto Rico, if you use the phrase desinfectante para manos nobody will understand you.
7. index card: Don’t even try to use the Spanish word ficha to ask for an index card in Puerto Rico.
8. almohada “travel size”: I think almohada pequeña sounds better in Spanish. Almohada is the word for pillow.
9. tape: If you use cinta adhesiva I guaranteed that you will receive a weird look from any Puerto Rican.
All accent marks are missing
Ok, where did the accent marks go? The words lápices, témpera, sábana, bolígrafos, and plásticos need their accent marks.
There are two words that are misspelled. The first one, plastisina instead of plasticina, is a common spelling challenge for native Spanish speakers because the sounds ci and si are exactly the same. That pronunciation characteristic is common in many Latin American countries, and it is called seseo.
The second one, delantar instead of delantal, does not follow the Puerto Rican pronunciation. Typically, in Puerto Rico we change the R for an L in particular cases.
Here is a printable list of school supplies in Spanish and English that you might find useful.
Check out these other Puerto Rican Spanish Slang articles.