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Dominican Spanish

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!

Dominicanismos / Dominican Idiom Dictionary

Dominican Spanish Explanations | Basic Spanish Words | Pronunciation and Alphabet | Shortcuts For Typing Foreign Symbols | Dominican Sayings & Idomatic Expressions | Trees | Animals | Using Animal Traits to Describe People | Animal Talk | Taino Language Used Today | Funny Names Of Dominican Towns Translated

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.

Dominican people having fun at the Plaza Bartolome de las Casas.
Dominican people having fun at the Plaza Bartolome de las Casas.

Official Language

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?”.

Funny little statue

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.

Dominican Spanish 101 from Amazon

Do not put your garbage here sign
Do not put your garbage here sign.

Slang

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.

Common Phrases

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.

Word Play

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!!

Kids selling almendras in the street laughing at the way the American talks
Kids selling almendras in the street laughing at the way the American talks.

How to respond to a greeting Dominican style

When you are asked:
“¿Como tu ‘ta? (“How you Doing?”)
OR
“¿Que lo que?” (“What’s happening?”)

Respond with:
“Tranquilo” (“Calm”)
“Ma-o-meno” (“ore or less)
“Regular pal’ tiempo (“OK for now”)

Bus

Bus of Dominican Republic

Oficina Metropolitana de Servicios de Autobuses/ Metropolitan Office of Bus Services better known as OMSA are the city buses and they cost between RD$10 and RD$15 (6/2014). Located in Santo Domingo and Santiago they have many routes and stops. You can find more information in the “SERVICIOS” section at their web site.

A large comfortable bus stuck on the small streets of Colonial Zone.

Oficina Metropolitana de Servicios de Autobuses/ Metropolitan Office of Bus Services better known as OMSA are the city buses and they cost between RD$10 and RD$15 (6/2014). Located in Santo Domingo and Santiago they have many routes and stops. You can find more information in the “SERVICIOS” section at their web site.
http://www.omsa.gob.do/

The Large Busses

These buses will take you cross country are full size modern vehicles equipped with air conditioning. Most have onboard movies and are quite comfortable as buses go. The average price from Santo Domingo to Puerta Plata by bus is about $6USD (2006-prices are an average). Remember to take a sweater on the bus. They can get very cold as they keep the air conditioning quite high. They buss is really a very comfortable way to travel any long distance.

 

  • *Caribe Tours

 

Their location in Santo Domingo is Avenida 27 de Febrero and Leopoldo Navarro. They have routs throughout the country and take pride in their promptness. Make sure to take a jacket as sometimes their air conditioning is a bit strong. Check their web site for bus destinations and schedules. Phone in Santo Domingo: 809-221-4422. You can also make a reservation on their web site.

 

  • *Metro Tours

 

Operate from Ave.Winston Churchill and Hatuey, near Ave. 27 de Febrero in Santo Domingo. Their routs are limited. Phone in Santo Domingo: 809-566-7126 web site

 

  • *Expreso Bávaro

 

To Bavaro / Punta Cana from Santo Domingo and back with many stops along the way.
Phone: 809-682-9670 web site

 

  • *Terrabús

 

Located on Avenida 27 de Febrero at Maximo Gomez at Plaza Criolla with busses to Santiago, Puerta Plata and Port-a-Prince, Haiti. 809-472-1080

 

  • *Expreso Macoris

 

Buses to La Romana and Higuey. Contact: 809-687-2190

Express Bus

These buses will take you over the entire island. They are not in the best shape and riding one can be confusing. The bus stop area is on Revelos Street in front of Enriquillo Park, area because there is no office or station. It is very crowded and fumey (is that a word?).

Watch your belongings. There are many thieves in that area. It will seem like there is no order at all. Just give yourself enough time to understand what is happening and to get on the correct bus.

It is a true experience that one should have. Some buses are very old and rickety and others are quite nice and could even have air conditioning. These buses are very inexpensive and collect the fare after departure. Make sure you have the correct change as some collectors will not make change.

Example trip:La Romana from Santo Domingo is about $3USD (2006), buses leave every hour from 5 AM to 9 PM, takes a little under 2 hours, stopping at Camino Ave. Return is the same.

Tour bus in Colonial Zone

Bus From Santo Domingo to Boca Chica

(7/2012) The terminal is located on Jose Marti which is two blocks from Parque Enriquillo (between Plaza Marti Department Store and Plaza de los Buhoneros) in Santo Domingo. Express buses run every 30 minutes with the fare being $70 Pesos (7/2012).

To get to the terminal from Colonial Zone taking a moto concho (public car): Go to the beginning of the Conde in front of Petrus (this is not far from the Pacos Restaurant and the Parque Independencia – on the corner of Palo Hincado and Calle las Mercedes). The cost is about $25 pesos (DOP). The car will travel on Ave. Mella, past the fire station, then turn onto Ave. Jose Marti, and pass directly in front of Parque Enriquillo then on to the front of the terminal (refer to express bus above). You can also ask any taxi driver to take you. They know where it is.

Here is where you catch the first bus. You will be taken to another terminal, The Andres bus, here you have to change buses and pay for another bus.

This bus will then take you to Boca Chica making the final stop at the park in the center of the town of Boca Chica.

Monday thru Saturday you may be able to leave from and be dropped off at Parque Independencia, near the gas station, before 6PM, on the way to the terminal. On Sundays the bus only goes to the terminal at Parque Enriquillo.

Note– Make sure you catch the last bus out of Boca Chica, ask the driver to be sure of the time, or you will be spending the night or taking a taxi (usually at least $1000 pesos (8/2011) to return back to the city. It really is very simple.

To read about helpful transportation tips.
Important phone numbers to take with you when you travel.
To read a funny story about Dominican Drivers written by DR Gringa