The world’s languages draw on different reference frames to encode spatial relationships between people, objects or places. We address how subtle differences in reference frame preferences across Spanish and English affect Spanish–English bilinguals’ interpretations of spatial descriptions involving the terms left and right. Bilinguals saw an entity (‘object’; e.g., a vase or a human) with a circle on either side, along with a description of the location of a ball relative to the object (e.g., The ball is to the right of the vase or The ball is on the vase’s right). Their task was to decide which circle indicated the ball’s location. Results showed that syntax and object type contributed differently to bilinguals’ responses: Effects of syntax patterned with Spanish preferences, whereas effects of object type patterned with English preferences. English language exposure subtly affected bilinguals’ response choices. Results are discussed with respect to experience-based theories of language processing.