Dominican Spanish- The Way Dominicans Talk
Dominican Spanish, the way the Dominicans talk (Como Hablamos Dominicanos) sometimes known as Dominicanismos or Dominicanese. Some words are the same as Spain Spanish but many are very different. Even the way words are pronounced are different. For example, most Dominicans do not use the “S” at the end of a word.
It is important to know many of these words. When you are walking in the street and someone calls out to you. Should you acknowledge or ignore the comments. When dining knowing what your ordering could make a real difference for the stomach!
Use these as a guideline. As with all languages, words change as well as peoples interpretation of them. Each region and sometimes town, has its own words, expressions and accents. Imagine trying to explain some words you may use in your own language…not as easy as it seems.
Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic. Street signs and restaurant menus are written in Spanish with the exception of some tourists areas. Knowing some Spanish would be helpful even though most people linked to the tourist trade generally speak different languages. Even if you are laughed at, people will respect your efforts to use their native language. Anyhow, laughing is good for the health, even if it is at your own expense. Enjoy and take it easy, life is too short.
Speaking Loud and Fast
Some interesting things that you will probably notice about the language is when you hear a group Dominican people hanging out talking. Dominicans usually speak very loud and fast while waving their arms around. Some might use strong hand and facial gestures. When I first saw this I thought people were getting ready to fight. It made me nervous. I did not understand the words they were saying and, for me, they were using what seemed to be aggressive gesturing. I later learned that this is just their way. It is normal Dominican-talk. It is not aggressive, rude or annoying to others. It is the way they do it. Their cultural custom. Dominican people are just the opposite of the way they come across. They are very polite humans, always greeting others with a “buenas días” or “¿Como esta?”.
Consonants and Vowels
One very noticeable difference in the language is the way certain consonants and vowels change. In the capital area of Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, the R sound is changes to an L sound. For example the word ¿por que? changes in sound to ¿pol que?. In the north part of the country they make the R sound like an I which makes ¿por que? sound like ¿poi que?. The southern region makes the R sound like an L making the word Miguel sound like Miguer. Also they do not add the letter S to the ending of words. In fact, they cut off many of the last letters in a word.
Words, for the most part, are written as they sound. At times it is not easy to determine exactly what letter is correct just by the sound. The average Dominican has no idea (and for the most part doesn’t really care) if a word is spelled with a V or a B; an H or a J; a soft C or an S or a Z (any letters that are interchangeable in pronunciation). When writing something of importance make sure to look up the word if there are any doubts as to the spelling.
Slang is very common, like everywhere in the world. Learning the slang of a country or region can be a never ending task as things change from day to day. One example is years ago in USA the word bad meant good, and now when something is sweet they do not mean that it is filled with sugar.
This is the same in Dominican Republic. It can be seen everywhere. On political posters, signs, and names of businesses. Trying to learn some of the slang can make conversing a bit more fun, helping your understanding and making it easier to fit in. In time, and with a little effort, you should be able to understand and laugh at a joke just as you do in your own native language.
Try listening to people talking in the streets with friends or enter a Dominicans chat room and see if you can pick up some common phrases. Esta Bien would be the school book way to say something is good, OK or cool. Here people might say “Ta nitido” “Ta jevi” “Ta vacano”. If you agree with something and want to say this in Dominican slang you could say “ta to” or “fuego”. If you want to just say hello or what’s up you would say “¿Que lo que?” or ¿Como tu ‘ta?” There are so many more sayings. I have tried to list many in the Dominicanismo Dictionary.
Dominicans use many double entendres in their language. This word play and metaphors make the language quite flowery and fun. Try and remember that for many Dominican words, including Spanish words in general, there are no direct translations. It is important if you want to fit in try and use a few of these words. It is also fun. If you do make a mistake don’t worry. Dominicans will most likely understand and try to help. They will appreciate your efforts.
Relax and enjoy this wonderful island and its beautiful and colorful people. Life is good!!
How to respond to a greeting Dominican style
When you are asked:
“¿Como tu ‘ta? (“How you Doing?”)
“¿Que lo que?” (“What’s happening?”)
“Ma-o-meno” (“ore or less)
“Regular pal’ tiempo (“OK for now”)