Episode 09: 7 Dominican Spanish Words and Expressions You Didn’t Know

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Learn Spanish Con Salsa Podcast

Episode 09

7 Dominican Spanish Words and Expressions You Didn’t Know

It’s not only the accent that makes Dominican Spanish unique.  There are hundreds of words and expressions that you’ll only hear in the DR.  In this episode, we’re joined again by Kesia from the Spanish Con Salsa team to review 7 Dominican words and expressions you probably don’t know.  So let’s get you prepared for your next trip to Punta Cana or conversation with friends from the Dominican Republic.

Transcript

Time

Speaker

Transcript

00:32

Host

Welcome to episode nine of the Learn Spanish Con Salas podcast. In this episode, we're going to chat with Kesia again. You may remember from the previous episode where we talked about the Dominican Spanish accent, and if you didn't hear that episode, go back and check out learnspanishconsalsa.com/dominicanspanish, and in that episode we talk all about the accent of the Dominican Republic and some of the differences between sort of how Dominicans speak and how you may have heard so-called “neutral Spanish,” which I don't believe in, but that's another story what you may have heard in your classroom or what you may have seen in a Spanish course. We talk a lot about the differences between that type of Spanish and the way that people actually speak Spanish in the Dominican Republic. So in this episode we're going to pick back up with that conversation and we're going to actually talk about some Dominican Spanish words and expressions.

01:27

Host

So it's not just the accent that makes Dominican Spanish unique. There's also a ton of different words and expressions that you will only hear in the DR. So Kesia is joining me today and we're going to talk all about that in this episode. So..

01:43

Host

Hola Kesia, ¿Cómo estás?

Hi Kesia, How are you?

01:48

Kesia

Hola Tamara. Muy bien, estoy muy bien por aquí. ¿Y tú?

Hi Tamara.  Very good, I’m doing very well over here. And you?

01:50

Host

Muy bien como siempre.

Doing well as always.

01:51

Kesia

Let's start with one of the most common words that you hear in the Dominican Republic. Something that when you hear it, you know right away that that person is Dominican. It's a typical greeting from DR: ¿Qué lo que?.

02:06

Host

¿Qué lo que? And what does “¿Qué lo que?” mean?

02:09

Kesia

It means, “How are you?” Like “¿Cómo estás?” Or it can also be something like “What's up?” like “¿Qué pasa?” So normally, when we see somebody, a friend or a family member, we say, “Hey ¿Qué lo que? Cuánto tiempo.” You know, like saying, “Hey, how are you? It's been a while.”

02:33

Host

One of my stories I usually tell is one of the first times that I visited the Dominican Republic, somebody actually said that to me and I was so confused because he's like, “Ay, Tamara, ¿Qué lo que?” And I was looking like, trying to translate like, “what the what,” “what the which?” I was like what does that mean? You know? It's like they don't teach that in any of the courses. That's not a greeting that I heard. I sort of figured it out after I heard it a couple of times, but it was still one of things that I was not prepared for, just getting off the plane in Santo Domingo and hearing “Ay ¿Qué lo que?” And I'm like, huh? (laughs). I don't know, what's the proper response to that. So what is the proper response? So if someone says to you ¿Qué lo que?,” how do you respond?

03:12

Kesia

I would say “bien” or “tranquila.” It depends. Like if you feel sad, “Ay, estoy mal, estoy mal, estoy cansada.” you know, it all depends on how you feel. But you will just reply with a short answer, like one-word answer. Yeah.

03:33

Host

OK, so it's basically like, if someone says “¿Cómo estás?” So if the say ¿Qué lo que?, you respond the same way you would to ¿Cómo estás?

03:41

Kesia

Yes. Yes. Mmm hmm.

03:41

Host

Okay. And I know also there's a text abbreviation for “Qué lo que” too, isn't there? If someone texts you “qué lo que,” how would that look?

03:49

Kesia

Yeah, we will spell it K and then space L – O you know like “low,” and then k again. I don't know why because if you read it in Spanish, the letter k will sound like “kah,” you know, so it would be “kah lo kah” but it actually means “qué lo que.” I guess it's just a shorter way or lazy way to write it.

04:10

Host

So it's like the English letter K, like the English letter K, lo, and then the English letter K for short. Instead of writing out Q – U – E how it would be spelled in Spanish, just using the English letter for short.

04:22

Kesia

Yeah (laughs)

04:22

Host

So if you get a text from one of your Dominican friends and you're wondering what does that mean? Is it an equation? What is that? It just means ¿Cómo estás? Okay. Okay. So we've got our first Dominican Spanish word. We've got our greeting, so we know how to respond to a greeting.

04:36

Host

So what's another word in the Dominican Republic that's distinctly or uniquely Dominicano?

04:42

Kesia

It's the word “vaina.”

04:43

Host

“Vaina,” ah, this is the one we talked about a little bit in our last conversation. I know when I hear someone that uses that word a lot, I know right away that I'm listening to a Dominican. (laughs)

04:58

Kesia

That's right.

04:58

Host

So explain a little bit about what is “vaina”?

05:01

Kesia

So basically “vaina” is the same as “cosa” or “thing.” Right. And you will use it for anything, para cualquier cosa. We also use it when there's a problem. So for example, your car doesn't start and you say “¡Ay, que vaina!” you know, like, “oh, what a problem!” Or like, “Oh God. Again!” you know, so we always say ” “¡Que vaina!” with that attitude, like something's going wrong, you know. But in general it means “cosa” or “thing.” So anything. You could use it to say, “Oh, esa vaina está caliente.”

05:44

Host

You know. Like, what's the vaina? I don't know. It could be a car, it can be a pod, whatever, you know?

05:51

Host

Like “that thing is hot” or it's very warm.

05:54

Kesia

Yeah, yeah.

05:54

Host

Give me some other examples of how you can use it because I know there's, I think “vaina” is like the most versatile word in Dominican Spanish. Like you can have a whole conversation I think where that's the subject, right? It can be the subject it can be an adjective, kind of give us some more examples of how it can be used.

06:11

Kesia

You can say, “Me gusta es'a vaina,” “esa vaina e'ta muy bonita.” you know, like saying, “Oh, I like that thing, it's very pretty,” you know. Or, “la vaina e'ta difícil, hay que hacer mucha vaina para poder ganarse lo chulito el dinero” you know, like “life is difficult and you have to work hard and do a lot of things to make some money.” So yeah, like you say, you could use “vaina” in a conversation all the time to describe everything. And it's funny because you're not mentioning any subject or object, but we will understand each other. Like we know what the vaina is. Some people might say, “what vaina?” what? what? La vaina, la vaina, you know? La vaina (laughs)

07:00

Host

¡Esa vaina!

07:00

Kesia

Like the “vaina” explains itself with another “vaina.”

07:00

Host

Like, “ya tú sabe, esa vaina.” (laughs)

Like, “you already know, that thing.”

07:07

Host

So I think it's interesting because it can be a thing like a physical thing or it can also be like a situation. Like you said, like you get in the car and it doesn't start. It's like, “ah, qué vaina.” I think too, in some instances, the way I hear it used, in English I would actually translate it to the word crap, which is sort of like, you know, it's not necessarily a derogatory term, but it is kind of expressing, you know, that you have some frustration. It's like what is this crap, right? Like “¿qué es esa vaina?” like if you say it like that, you're kind of saying “man, this crap is happening again.” So it's not necessarily, you know, there's another word for that, which I'm not going to mention that we also use English, but it's not that, you know, it's not vulgar, but it does sometimes express a little bit of frustration.

07:48

Host

It's something that's an undesirable situation. So you can kind of use it an aspiration like that sometimes. So there's actually a really funny video on YouTube that talks all about the word “vaina” it gives like a whole explanation, different ways you can use it. It's actually pretty funny. So I'm actually going to link it in the show notes, but if you want a complete breakdown of that video. So I have a full transcript where you actually can understand everything that's being said and also the English translation of it. It's actually inside our Dominican Spanish 101 course. And you can get a free trial of that as well and I'll talk about that a little bit later towards the end of the episode. But it is a really funny video if you want to watch and kind of get a sense of how that word is used everyday by Dominicans.

08:33

Host

So we had, phrase one was “¿Qué lo que?”, number two we have is “vaina.” So what's our third Dominican Spanish word?

08:42

Kesia

Ta'to.

08:42

Host

Ta'to.

08:44

Kesia

Ta'to, yeah. It's supposed to be two words. But you know, as we cut words, like we explained before, it joins into one word and we say “ta'to.” It means “está bien” or “OK.”

08:59

Host

I've heard that in, I don't want to say neutral Spanish, but I've heard in other Spanish-speaking countries they have a full phrase that's similar to “ta'to.” It's like “está todo bien.” Like three separate words. Like “it's all good” or “is everything okay?” or “everything is okay.” You know like if it's a question or a statement. So it's actually like this whole phrase has been shortened into like one word.

09:23

Kesia

That's right.

09:24

Host

Ta'to. So give us some examples of how we might hear that used in the Dominican Republic.

09:29

Kesia

I don't know, like if I invite you somewhere I say “Hey ¿Quieres ir al cine esta noche?” Then you will reply saying “Ta'to, vamos.” You know, like “okay, está bien, vamos.”

09:41

Host

Or if you say, “oh I finished that homework that you asked me too.” I'll be like “oh, ta'to, gracias” like, ok, everything's fine. Thank you.

09:54

Host

Okay. So it's like another way to say “está bien,” like “it's okay” or “everything's good.” So you're kinda confirming, yup, that's good with me. So you're just gonna say, “ta'to”

09:59

Kesia

Mmm hmm, yep.

10:00

Host

Wow. That one really gets me because it's such a shortening that it doesn't even sound at all like the original words. So you really have to know what people are talking about if you hear that one. That one I think is very extreme when it comes to the shortening and cutting the letters.

10:21

Kesia

I actually think many Dominicans think that this is one word, you know, like if you will ask them what it means they'll be like “ta'to.” You know? And they might even write it for you thinking that it's one word.

10:30

Host

Right, right. Yeah. That's another thing too. Like, so in written communication like texting, like some of these words can be super informal and they're not always spelled correctly. Like we talked about “vaina” like I've seen people spell that like “baina” instead of “vaina” because in Spanish the “B” and the “V” you know, have the same sound but in English or they're two different sounds. But I've seen, you know, native Spanish speakers write “vaina” with the b chica. So it's really interesting when you try to write out some of these expressions and things that people say all the time. All right, so “ta'to.” So word number four. What's our fourth Dominican expression?

11:13

Kesia

It's the word “jevi.”

11:15

Host

Heavy?

11:15

Kesia

And it's not “heavy” as in “heavy” in English.

11:18

Host

Okay. How would you spell that?

11:23

Kesia

It's spelled differently. I would spell it J – E – V – I.

11:23

Host

Ah OK “jevi.” OK.

11:26

Kesia

“Jevi,” yeah. And it means “bien,” like something's cool or nice, you know. It's normally used for compliments. So you want to say to your friend that her dress is pretty. You say, “Ah, ese vestido sí está jevi, me gusta” you know, like, “oh, that dress is so nice. I like it.” It's used to compliment.

11:48

Kesia

Or like a guy is attractive. You'e like, “Oh este muchacho se ve jevi,” you know, “he looks good.” Or, the girl, you know, “Ella es muy jevi.” It can also mean that she has a nice personality. So you say, “Oh, ella es muy jevi.” “She's friendly,” you know, or nice.

12:08

Host

So it's a positive thing. It's a positive compliment that you receive if someone says that you're “jevi.”

12:14

Kesia

Yes, it is.

12:14

Host

So for the women out there, if a Dominican guy says that you're “jevi,” he's not calling you fat. Okay? (laughs)

12:24

Kesia

No!

12:24

Host

That's another word altogether. So not the English “heavy,” So it's not an insult, it's a compliment. Okay. (laughs) So what is our next word Kesia?

12:31

Kesia

It's “pana.”

12:32

Host

Pana, Okay. And what does “pana” mean?

12:34

Kesia

It means “amigo” or “friend.” So we say, “Oh, mi pana Jose viene a visitarme.” is like “Oh, my friend Jose is coming to visit me.” And we actually use it, we combine it with a word in English that is “full.” We say “mi pana full” to say like “he's my best friend” “él es mi pana full ese muchacho.” like, “oh, that boy is my best friend.” It's like saying in English, I think you guys say “my bestie,” you know, like, that expression?

13:05

Host

Yeah.

13:05

Kesia

So it will be the same, like “Oh, mi pana full.”

13:09

Host

I like that. So it's an English word combined, combined with another word that you only hear in the DR, right?

13:17

Kesia

Yeah.

13:18

Host

Another question. So for my grammar nerds out there, because I know someone's thinking it so “pana” ends with an “a.” So it sounds like a feminine word. So can you use it to describe a male or female with the same ending?

13:29

Kesia

Yes.

13:30

Host

Okay. So there's no “pano,” we wouldn't do that.

13:33

Kesia

No, no.

13:34

Host

That sounds weird. OK.

13:36

Kesia

I't's “pana” for masculine, yes.

13:37

Host

Okay. Alright. So let's move on to palabra número seis, word number six. What do we have?

13:43

Kesia

It's the word “chin.”

13:44

Host

Okay. And when does that mean?

13:46

Kesia

It means “a little bit.” “Un poco” would be proper Spanish. Like “un poco” or “un poquito.” You have to be careful because I have heard that this word is a curse word in Mexico.

13:58

Host

Oh, okay. All right. That's important to know.

14:03

Kesia

Yes, yes. I had an experience with it, but yes. Dominicans…

14:08

Host

Oh no, no, no. You can't leave us hanging. You have to tell us about your experience (laughs). You know I was going to ask that. What was your experience with this word? I want to hear this one.

14:16

Kesia

Oh no, it's so embarrassing. So I was in Mexico and I was at a place where they have like many different sweets, like typical sweets from Mexico and I was trying everything but it was already too much. So the guy is coming with a big piece for me to try it and I say, “no, no, no, un chin, un chin, solo un chin.”. And he looked at me and he got so mad and he's like, “You leave my store! You don't need to come with those words here if you don't want it. I didn't know what happened. So the friend from Mexico that was with me, she's like, “oh, let's go, let's go, let's go.” I'm like, “what did I say?” And she didn't want to explain it to me, I was like “You need to tell me. I will keep saying it. I didn't know.” She says “You used the word “chin.” I was like “It means “a little,” “un poquito,” you know?” She's like “no, you don't use that word here.” It was so embarrassing. But then the worst thing was that I couldn't control it. And after that I wanted to say “chin” all the time. I's like I couldn't say “un poco” or “un poquito.” (laughs).

15:15

Host

Well give us an idea of what it means in Mexican Spanish without, you know, I guess, giving us the actual word, kind of give us an idea of what it means.

15:23

Kesia

It's like the act of having sex, like in a dirty way. I would say. Yeah.

15:30

Host

Ohhhh! So he thought you were really insulting him.

15:31

Kesia

Yes, yeah.

15:34

Host

Oh that's horrible. I'm sorry you had that experience. But you know that really…it's interesting because it shows like, I think a lot of times as native English speakers when we're learning Spanish, we get sort of embarrassed by those things. But they can happen in between different Spanish speaking cultures as well because there are differences in the words that are used. So it's interesting that, you know, those experiences don't happen. So wow, okay. So we know that if we go to Mexico, we cannot use this word.

16:00

Kesia

No, you have to say “un poquito”

16:03

Host

Okay. But if we're in the Dominican Republic, and we hear someone saying it or we want to try to use it ourselves. When can we use the word “chin”?

16:10

Kesia

So if you want just a little bit of something, let's say, “Oh, dame un chin de agua por favor.” like, “can I have some water?” or “a little bit of water?” Or you can even use it for things that are not things you can see or touch. For example, I can say “Estoy un chin cansada,” you know, like “I'm a little bit tired.” Or “Voy a llegar un chin tarde.” Y like “I'm going to get there a little late.” You know, so you can use that for anything that means a little.

16:41

Host

Okay. So you can use it pretty much just like the word “poco.” Then you can just substitute that with “chin”

16:47

Kesia

Mmmm hmmm.

16:47

Host

So we've gone through six words so far. So I think we're at the end of our list. So what is the last Dominican Spanish word that we're going to look at today?

16:56

Kesia

It's “allantar.”

16:59

Host

Allantar, OK. What does that mean?

17:01

Kesia

It means “presumir” in proper Spanish and English, you will say “to pretend”

17:06

Host

So give us some examples of how we might hear that.

17:09

Kesia

Okay. So my mother-in-law is coming to visit and I say, “Oh, tengo que allantar a mi suegra con una buena comida.” You know, like I have to pretend that I am a good wife and cook a nice meal for her. And you actually use it to describe the person. So if I do that, then I become an “allantosa.” “Yo soy un allantosa” So it means that I pretend to be this person, but I'm not.

17:38

Host

Ah, so like I think in English we have an expression for that. At least the way I've heard it said it's like “perpetrating a fraud,” (laughs). It's like a long way to say it. You know, like you're trying to put on an act, so to speak, you know. So yeah. So you're…

17:52

Kesia

It's not illegal, because you make it sound illegal, but it's not.

17:59

Host

No, I don't know. Even that phrase that I use is not kind of like a universal American thing, I want to say. I'm not sure where even first heard it. It's probably a little old school at this point, but it's something that we would say, and I'm from the east coast of the US, so kind of like, oh, they're perpetrating a fraud. It does make it sound like they're committing crime, but it really just means that they're, you know, we know that they're faking, like they're faking it. That's a better way to say it. Like, you know, we know that you're faking it, but like that's a very specific phrase to perpetrate the fraud. That's a little more slang. But yeah, faking it is probably a more neutral way to say,

18:34

Kesia

Okay, yeah, that's how it is. So if I see that you're happy, but I know you just broke up with your boyfriend and I say, “Hey, no, me allantes.” you know, like “don't put that fake face on because I know you're sad.” You know, we use it a lot. I think dominicanos are very allantoso in general (laughs). In a good way. You know, we're always happy even though life is not perfect here.

18:59

Host

Yeah, Yep. Always putting on a good face on things even if things are bad.

19:03

Kesia

Yeah.

19:05

Host

Alright. So we've learned quite a bit of Dominican Spanish today, so. All right, so Kesia if you could just review what are the seven Dominican Spanish words that we talked about in this episode?

19:16

Kesia

Okay. We just saw 1) ¿Qué lo que?, which is “how are you” or “what's up.”

19:21

Kesia

2) We also saw the word “vaina” which is “cosa,” a thing. Or it could also represent a problem, like “que vaina” like “Oh God!”

19:31

Kesia

3) We also saw the word “ta'to” which is “está bien.”

19:33

Kesia

4) The word “jevi” which is a compliment for “nice” or “pretty”

19:43

Kesia

5) Also the word “pana” which is “amigo” or “friend.”

19:48

Kesia

6) The word “chin,” “a little bit” or “un poco” in proper Spanish.

19:52

Host

…and to never use it in Mexico. We learned that.

19:57

Kesia

7) And then the word “allantar” which is “to pretend.”

19:59

Host

So that's a pretty good list. We've learned some new words today. I hope that if you're listening, you found something in there that you didn't know before and you can definitely at least be familiar with. We don't expect you to maybe go out and use these words, but maybe the next time you hear someone saying these words and you know that the speakers from the Dominican Republic, you'll understand what's going on.

20:19

Kesia

I just want to say that these phrases and words, everyone uses it, but if you're talking to somebody in a formal environment, you want to refrain from using these words. So like if you are going to say hi to your boss or on a job interview or your grandmother, you know, you don't want to say, ¿Qué lo que abuela? or ¿Qué lo que jefe? You know, you want to keep it formal. All of these expressions are very common but they are used in an informal environment or situations.

20:50

Host

Okay. And that's really important to know, right. To not, sort of, walk into a hotel, you know, and greet the person that says “Buen día” and you go “¿Qué lo que?”

21:02

Kesia

Yeah, no. You don't want to do that.

21:04

Host

So definitely keep it for informal settings between friends. And the rule of thumb I always use is, you know, if you hear somebody else say it first, then you know, you feel more comfortable that you can use that with them, but you don't want to sort of lead with this. So I think that's an important point you make Kesia is that, you know, anytime you're learning new words, it's really important to know the context in which you would use them. If you're talking to someone from another country, they may not understand any of these words, so it's important that you understand the context and where you are and who you're talking to you before you just kind of jump out saying, “Hey, ¿Qué lo que? Dame un chin.”

21:35

Kesia

Yeah.

21:35

Host

Okay, so proceed with caution, but at least now you'll understand when you hear these words and phrases, that one, you're probably listening to a Dominican and two, you'll know what they're talking about and you won't feel left out of the conversation. So with that, we're going to wrap up this episode. We had a great conversation. Gracias Kesia.

21:53

Kesia

De nada. Fue un placer.

You’re welcome. It was a pleasure.

21:55

Host

Now if you're interested in learning more Dominican Spanish, check out the Dominican Spanish 101 Bilingual Dictionary and Phrase Book. It includes over 200 words and expressions that are uniquely Dominican. And for all my podcast listeners, you know I'm always looking out for you guys. I have a 20 percent discount available if you want to get the phrase book and learn even more Dominican Spanish words. And the great thing about the phrase book also is not only do you get the words in Spanish with the definition in Spanish, you'll also get the translation to English and three different examples that are in context so that you understand exactly how the words are used in different situations.

22:42

Host

And you'll also be able to get the audio so you can hear exactly how every word and phrase is pronounced. So if you're interested in the Dominican Spanish 101 Bilingual Dictionary and Phrase Book, go to the show notes page to access a discount code at learnspanishconsalsa.com/dominicanwords that's learnspanishconsalsa.com/dominicanwords, and that's the show notes for this episode, so you'll be able to review all of the vocabulary that we went over in our conversation and also access your special discount for the phrase book.

23:17

Host

Now, I also mentioned earlier that we have a Dominican Spanish 101 Audio Course. So if you're interested in checking out the free trial of that course so you can learn even more Dominican Spanish, go to dominicanspanish101.com/freetrial. And I'll also link to that on the show notes page as well.

23:37

Host

So I hope you enjoyed this episode all about Dominican Spanish words and phrases, And as always, we'd love to hear from you. You can reach on Instagram @learnspanishconsalsa or leave us a comment on the show notes page. I hope you learned something in this episode that will take you one step closer from being a beginner to bilingual. Adios.

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Links and Resources

Dominican Spanish 101 Bilingual Dictionary and Phrasebook

Dominican Spanish 101 Bilingual Dictionary and Phrasebook

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Dominican Spanish 101 Audio Course

Sign up for the free trial of the Dominican Spanish 101 Audio Course @ http://www.dominicanspanish101.com/freetrial


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