Monday, May 23, 2011

Dominican Espany

When I first arrived in the Dominican Republic, I could not speak a word of Spanish. However, I could speak French and German, and having learnt languages before I assumed it would not be that difficult. What I did not realise was that Dominican Spanish is different. To start with they do not pronounce any of the letter 's'. It does not matter where it is in the word - it disappears. Plus they tend to leave off the endings of the words.

This sign, belonging to a funeral parlour, should say "Por favor, no traes muertos despues de la 6" which means please do not bring dead people after 6 o' clock. As you can see, spelling is obviously not a strong point - and remember to die in the day time.

As well as not pronouncing the letter 's'. there are many words which Dominican Spanish has taken from English, although at first they are not really recognisable. In sport for example there is Bakebo, Gol and Beybol. Food and drink such as wiki, sanwee and hamberge.

Here they managed to spell Gas Station correctly - gas being petrol - but struggled a bit with wash!

There are many other words too which can take a while to decipher: pantis, swiche (switch), aypo - this is hard - an Ipod, tapee (tape), teni (tennis
shoes), poloshe (t shirt), chelon (chaise longue) and emay (e-mail).

In addition, Dominican Spanish will we use the brand name such as Hoover for all similar appliances. So a razor blade is a Gilay (Gillette), washing powder is Fa (fab), porridge oats are Quacker.

The missing out of the 's' can make it very hard to understand at first. Como tu ta should be como tu estas or how are you. I remember asking my husband if the cats needed food. "No, tan full" he replied, which should have been "no, ellos estan full". Another English word creeping in there.

Driving around is always fun as everywhere you go there are signs to decipher. This one here says "It is prohibited to wash pigs". Then it states law 64-00 - I had no idea there was a law against washing pigs.

So if you are learning Dominican Spanish - good luck to you. On paper it seems easy enough, it is just when you are listening to people or trying to read what they have written that things get difficult.


  1. How about some dominicanisms like: Dimelo, 'pa k, k lo k, jevi, tigres. My favorite is 'se fue la luz!' which my host sister would yell everytime the electricity went out, no matter how often that was.

  2. Good idea! I will put that on the list. Thanks!

  3. Hahahahahahaha that really funny, i really like your blog, I'm american but i was raised in the DR, and i have to tell you that the language imperfections they have aren't because they are dominican, its because of their education level, a lot of dominicans don't finish middle school, and that creates a gap, in wich you can find this.For example a middle class dominican doesn't speak without the "S" because his was taught by his school teachers and family not to talk in that manner, and even in the Dominican Republic you can find different types of speech such as the overuse of the letter I in the Cibao as well as the swicht people in the east do with the L instead of the r for example cuarto ( making reference to money) is said cuaLto by many dominicans of the east.

    1. Thanks Jay. There must be regional accents in all of the areas. I can tell the Cibao as they say Maygot instead of Margot and Capitay instead of capital. I must admit I often drop the s as well which I shouldn't!

  4. A couple points: there are regional habits, of which the Cibaeño is the most famous and often most caricatured (see the famous novel Over for an illustration). The capital has its own lingo, substituting "l" for "r" for example. The chopping off of endings is common throughout the Spanish speaking Caribbean, and it's not just the "s" that gets chopped (ao is used instead of ado, and á instead of ada on the past participles.) Among the lower classes the "s" is often interpolated where it doesn't belong ("plasta" instead of "plata") because they think it sounds "fino".

    The misspelled sign you photographed is typical of the spelling errors that prevail -- dropped "s", "l" instead of "r" -- and of course "b" instead of "v". But there is one thing correct that you misinterpret as an error. The sign reads "no traer" -- that is an "r" at the end and it is correct, since the infinitive can be used as a form of imperative command when speaking to a general audience.

    The best thing about the sign however is its Monty Python lunacy -- Bring out the Dead! But not after 6!

  5. Hey!
    So if you learn Spanish as it presents usually (castillian) you won't be able to understand the natives? Or it'll just take some time to adapt?