Hey everyone, sorry it's been so long. I've been really busy! As of right now I can't promise to be posting a lot either... we'll see what happens.
As proof of that I'm still checking on you guys, I thought I'd share this comment I got on this post. It's from Vicious Misfit.
Great blog. Really glad I found it. I just returned from my 2nd trip to San Juan (between hurricanes), and I was able to adventure out from Santurce this time around. And being a redhead, I found your commentary entertaining.I don't really have much to say about this, except yes, guidebooks lie, and they lie viciously. And the last sentence also rings true for me. To me, Puerto Rican Spanish sounds kind of soothing and comforting (depending, of course, on who's talking--some people are really nasal and it kind of hurts).
However, I actually found that once I left Condado, people were happy to converse with me in Spanish, once I'd responded or initiated a conversation in the language, although they tended to ease off the accent and expressions. Those that I met loved to talk, which seems to be yet another source of pride. Just asking for street directions could prompt a 30-minute conversation which wanders off into stories, politics, and usually will engage other bystanders. Sometimes the conversation would drift in between languages (I'm not fluent by any means), but there didn't seem to be a particular preference other than simply communicating in the way they felt would be most helpful/effective.
As for their English fluency in general, even in the tourist areas, I've only met a handful of people who speak English beyond a functional or informative level. And as far as I can tell, while English is taught throughout school alongside Spanish, it's the latter that is used in instruction and other school functions. Once I wanted to discuss opinions or anything in depth, Spanish was a necessity.
I was pleasantly surprised. As you'd stated, the culture is essentially from Taino, African, and Spanish influence, and I think it's great that the language has not succumbed to English due to U.S. occupation. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive to travel there initially for fear that the guides were right about all locals being fluent in English. I was worried to find something like Hawaii, but that can't be further from the truth.
And to get back on topic (sorry for rambling), I agree the "Boricua Spanish" is too often discounted because it deviates so far from the academy. And there's something about the tone and rhythm of the speaking which I now miss, having returned back home.
Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Hopefully we'll get more material up here soon!