Episode 02: Why You Can’t Understand Dominican Spanish Speakers

Podcast
Learn Spanish Con Salsa Podcast

Episode 02

Why You Can’t Understand Dominican Spanish Speakers

You may have noticed that Dominicans don’t speak the same way you may have been taught in your Spanish classes.   You might even feel like they’re speaking an entirely different language in the Dominican Republic! Not to worry – we’re diving into all the specifics in this week’s podcast about Dominican Spanish. We'll talk with Kesia from the Spanish Con Salsa team  about what makes Dominican Spanish different, characteristics of the Dominican accent, and hacks to better understand Dominican Spanish speakers.

Transcript

Time

Transcript

00:31 –00:45

Host: Hola y bienvenidos.  Welcome to Episode 2 of the Learn Spanish Con Salsa podcast. Today we’re going to talk about Spanish from the Dominican Republic. If any of you have met anyone from the Dominican Republic

00:45 – 1:00

or you have friends from the island, you know that the Spanish spoken in the Dominican Republic is just a little bit different than what you may have been taught in school or what you’ve learned with an app that you may have downloaded.

1:00 – 1:15

So today I have a member of the team of Spanish con Salsa. I’m here with Kesia. We’re going to talk a little bit about Dominican Spanish in general, like what is Dominican Spanish, what makes it so different, and we’re going to talk a little bit about some of the

1:15 – 1:30

specific things about Dominican Spanish that really are a little bit unique. So make sure that you’re ready and that you listen up because today is going to be a very interesting conversation.

 

So just a little heads up before we get started.

1:30 – 1:45

The introduction to the conversation in this episode will be one hundred percent in Spanish. That’s to give you some more exposure to listening to Spanish conversation. So, if you’re an intermediate learner challenge yourself to listen and see how much you understand.

1:45 – 2:00

Now, if you are a beginner, and you find it a little challenging to follow the conversation at the beginning, not to worry, we will switch back to English once we get to the more detailed conversation about Dominican Spanish. But you can accesss the full transcript

2:00 – 2:15

plus the translation to English by going to our Show Notes page at learnspanishconsalsa.com/dominicanspanish.

 

With that let’s go ahead and get started.

 

2:15 – 2:22

Now, I’m going to introduce you all to Kesia.

 

Hola, ¿cómo estás?

Hello, how are you?

2:22 – 2:24

Kesia: Hola, ¡muy bien! ¿Y tú?

Hello, very good! And you?

2:24 – 2:27

Host: Bien bien. Entonces Kesia, ¿de dónde tú eres?

Good good. So Kesia, where are you from?

2:27 – 2:35

Kesia: Yo soy de Republica Dominicana de la región del Cibao. Específicamente vivo en la ciudad La Vega.

I am from the Dominican Republic from the region of Cibao. Specifically, I am from the city of La Vega.

 

2:35 – 2:39

Host: Ah de La Vega. Entonces, estás del norte del país, ¿verdad?

Ah from la Vega. So you are from the north of the country right?

2:39 – 2:40

Kesia: Exacto, sí.

Exactly, yes.

2:40 – 2:58

Host: ¿Y cuanto tiempo llevas estudiando inglés? Porque yo sé que tú eres bilingüe y tenemos hoy gente que quieren ser bilingüe también. Entonces, yo quiero saber un poquito de ti y cómo tú aprendiste inglés en tu país.

And how long have you studied English? Because I know that you are bilingual and we have people that want to be bilingual too. So, I want to know a little bit about you and how you leanred English in your country.

2:58 – 3:47

Kesia: Pues aprendí inglés cuando era joven. Bueno, soy joven todavía, pero … (risa)

 

Host: Sí, todos somos jóvenes.

Yes, we’re all young.

Kesia: Tenía catorce, quince años. Fuí a un instituto de idiomas aquí. Iba todos los sábados en la tarde aprender inglés. Pero después que me gradué pasaron dos años y cuando me gradué no me sentía con la confianza de hablarlo. Sabía mucho del libro, gramática, pero a la hora de hablar tenía mucha vergüenza. Entonces, fue con amigos practicando y hablando con ellos que llegue a alcanzar la fluidez o un poco de la fluidez que tengo actualmente. Hay muchas turistas y amigos de otros países que viven aquí y ellos me han ayudado mucho a mejorar.

 

Well I learned English when I was young. Well, I’m still young but … (laughter)

I was fourteen or fifteen years old. I went to a language institute here. I went every Saturday in the afternoon to learn English. But after I graduated two years went by and when I graduated I didn’t feel confident to speak it. I knew a lot from the books, grammar, but when it came to speaking, I was very embarrassed. So it was with friends, practicing and speaking with them, that I came to reach fluency or the little fluency that I have now. There are a lot of tourists and friends from other countries that live here who have helped me a lot to improve.

3:47 – 3:52

Host: Que bueno, ¿entonces con tus amigos podías practicar más el inglés?

That’s good, okay so with your friends you were able to practice more English?

3:52 – 3:53

Keisa:

Yes.

3:53 – 4:21

Host: Yo sé que todos estamos en el proceso de aprender otro idioma. Yo estoy aprendiendo inglés, o español, otro idioma, y puedo llegar a la fluidez. Es como un proceso. Es como algo que tenemos que hacer cada día. Entonces, hubo un momento en que te sentías como ‘¡Ay por fin, yo soy bilingüe!’ ¿Hubo un momento específico que recuerdas o solo fue un proceso?

I know that we are all in the process of learning another language. I am learning English or Spanish or another language and I can reach fluency. It’s all a process. It’s something we have to do everyday. So was there a moment when you felt like ‘Hey finally, I’m bilingual!’ Was there a specific moment that you remember or was it all a process?

4:21 – 4:48

Kesia: Creo que fue un proceso. Como te dije, cuando me gradué, cuando terminé de estudiar, todos pensaban oh ya ella puede hablar inglés porque terminó dos de estudios del idioma. Pero no era así. Tenía el conocimiento, pero no tenía la practica. Y luego a medida de comienzas a hablar y a usarlo, te das cuentas cuales son tus fortalezas, tus habilidades y vas mejorando.

I think it was a process. Like I told you, when I graduated, when I finished studying, everyone thought oh now she can speak English because she finished two years of studying the language. But it wasn’t like that. I had the knowledge but I didn’t have the practice. Later after beginning to speak and use it, you realize your strengths, your skills, and you get better.

4:48 – 5:25

Kesia: Creo que lo que te da la satisfacción es poder comunicarte con otra persona que habla el idioma y que sólo habla ese idioma. No puedes traducir. No hay otra manera de comunicarte con él. Eso de te mucha satisfacción y te hace sentir como, ‘Oh sí, en verdad hablo inglés. En verdad puedo hablar, y me entiende y puedo comunicarme.’ Pero creo que es un proceso. Nunca dejas de aprender. Actualmente estoy aprendiendo palabras nuevas y cosas nuevas como cualquier idioma. Hay mucho espacio y oportunidad para aprender.

I think what gives you the satisfaction is being able to communicate with another person que speaks the language and only speaks that language. You can’t translate, there’s no other way to communicate with them. That gives you a lot of satisfaction and makes you feel like, ‘Oh, yeah I really can speak English. I really can speak, and they understand me and I can communicate.’ But I think it’s a process. Never stop learning. Never… Right now I’m still learning new words and new things like any other language. There’s a lot of space and opportunity to learn.

5:25 – 6:10

Host: Exacto. La verdad es que me sentía igual con el inglés porque hay muchas palabras en inglés que aun no sé también. Y también con la gramatica porque con ingles es muy difícil la gramática. Entonces, sí, yo creo que eso de verdad todos tenemos que continuar aprendiendo cada día. Entonces, bueno. Yo creo que eso va a ayudar los oyentes que están pensando que ‘Ay, nunca voy a lograr esa meta de ser bilingüe.’ Entonces creo que eso va a ayudarlos un poquito. Entonces gracias por eso. Porque tenemos muchos principiantes ahora vamos a cambiar al inglés para hablar la conversación sobre español dominicano. 

Exactly. The truth is that I felt the same with English because there are many words that I still don’t know. Also with the grammar, because with English grammar is very difficult. So, yes, I think that truly we have to continue learning everyday. I think that that is going to help the people who are thinking, ‘Oh, I’m never going to reach that goal of being bilingual.’ I think that is going to help them a little bit. So thank you for that. Because we have a lot of beginners, we’re going to switch to English now to discuss the converstation about Dominican Spanish.

6:10 – 6:25

Host: We’re going to switch to English now. I know a lot of you are beginners. We will have the whole conversation for today in the Show Notes, so there will be a transcript with the trasnlations to English. So if you didn’t catch all of the conversation just a minute ago make sure you go to the Show Notes and check out the transcript.

 

6:25 – 6:49

Host: But for now, we’re going to switch to talk about Dominican Spanish. And Kesia, because she is from the northern region of the country, which I have to say, the Cibao – the accent in that region is very particular. If you listen to any bachata music, a lot of the artists that are well known actually come from that region.

 

So usually what we think of when we think of the Dominican accent is usually a Cibao, right?

6:49 – 7:11

Kesia: Yes yes. Definitely. It’s very campoish like we say here.

 

Host: And campo is the countryside right? We would say in English like the country (country accent). People that live kind of out of the city, country bumpkins, whatever you want to call it. But so yeah, in the Cibao region there’s a lot of people who live in more of like a rural area right?

7:11 – 7:36

Kesia: Yes, and it’s funny because you can be from the south or the east of the country and you might not be able to tell by the way people talk. But if you see a Cibaoeño you’ll notice immediately that this person is from the Cibao because our language and accent and dialect it’s pretty different from the rest of the country.

7:36 – 7:50

Host: So what are those characteris— well first, before we get into that, let’s talk about what are the different regions. Because we talked about el Cibao which is more towards the north. And you mentioned there’s also the South and the East as well?

7:50 – 8:10

Kesia: Yes, so the East is very famous for the tourism. It’s where Punta Cana is. I think everyone knows where Punta Cana is.

 

Host: Yeah, definitely.

 

Kesia: People say, ‘Oh I’ve been to Punta Cana, but I’ve never been to the Dominican Republic.’ (laughter)

 

Host: Yeah I call it Little America. That’s what I call it.

8:10 – 8:44

Kesia: Yeah, it’s beautiful. The beaches are beautiful in this area. So you have the East and then you have the South of the country. It’s a different territory. It’s very poor, based on farming basically. It has beautiful beaches and areas as well, but it’s not a tourist area. It’s like a virgin area of the country.

 

Host: Ah okay. Is Santo Domingo, the capital, is that considered a part of el Sur, the South, or is that its own region in and of itself just because it’s the capital?

8:45 – 8:55

Kesia: So technically it is part of the South, but lately people just refer to it as part of the South like it’s its own thing, like you said the capital Santo Domingo.

 

8:55 – 9:16

Host: So there’s three main regions in the Domincan Republic. I think what we’ll do first is let’s talk a little bit about some of the characteristics of the accent of Dominican Spanish. What a lot of people tell me is that, ‘Wow, when I hear someone speaking Spanish and they’re from the Dominican Republic, they talk so fast, and I have no idea what they’re saying.’

9:16 – 9:40

Host: So let’s break down a little bit about why that is exactly, and then we’ll get into the differences in the different regions because there’s also accents that are different within the country, not just this sort of one generic Dominican accent. Like you said, people from el Cibao have a very unique sound as well. Let’s first talk about what are those characteristics of just Dominican Spanish in general that all Dominicans sort of share.

9:40 – 10:28

Kesia: Yes we do speak very fast, and I didn’t notice this until somebody else brought it up to me like, ‘Oh Kesia slow down!’ But then I notice my family and everyone else does. It’s like we’re singing, you know? It’s like we’re going through merengue tipico but it’s just a conversation. And we also speak very loud. We’re normally loud. It’s like if we’re trying to yell for no reason. I guess it’s because it’s an island and people used to work in the farms… and yeah, communication is difficult here. So you’re just used to it. That’s what you learn at home your abuela (grandmother), your grandma is yelling to you, and that’s what you learn. Yeah, but we’re loud and fast.

10:28 – 11:23

Host: And you know what’s funny? I think it’s probably because being from the U.S. I grew up black in the U.S. which to me is sort of its own subculture, and I never really noticed that about Dominican Spanish because I think we’re the same way here. We’re the ones in the restaurant and everyone’s like, ‘Okay, they need to stay at a table in the back because they’re the loud ones.’ So I never noticed that particular point until I started to learn more, because for me that’s normal, right?

But some of the things I did notice when I started listening to more bachata and even some salsa too, because I think this is something sort of characteristic of the whole Caribbean, but I did notice this tendency to drop the letter ‘d’ when it’s in between two vowels. So like, hearing the word ‘cansado’ it would kind of sound like ‘cansa'o’. It sounds like ‘ow’ like someone’s going ‘Ow! I hurt my toe’ like ‘Ow’. (laughter) That’s just kind of how it goes. So can you explain that? Is that something that’s typical of everyone in the Dominican Republic?

11:23 – 11:41

Kesia: Yes, it is. That’s something that everyone does. It doesn’t matter the region that you come from. We drop the letter ‘d’. So if you want to say the word mad, the word for mad in Spanish is ‘enjoado’ or we would say ‘enoja'o’. It’s just the way of saying things faster I guess.

11:41 – 12:09

Host: But in some cases you also have the feminine form of the word. It’s not just ‘cansado’, you can also have – if I’m a female, I wouldn’t say ‘cansado’. I would say ‘cansada.’ So, would the ‘d’ also drop out of that type of word like if I said ‘estoy cansada’?

 

Kesia: We would say e‘toy cansá.

 

Host: ‘Cansá’

 

Kesia: Yeah, it depends if the last, so let’s say the last two syllables are the same vowels then you would drop the last vowel as well.

12:09 – 13:03

Host: Okay, so it just sounds like that one –

 

Kesia: But it doesn’t matter if it’s masculine or feminine, yes we drop the letter ‘d’.

 

Host: And I guess that would be confusing if I’m hearing that and I’ve never heard it before, especially with some connected speech not just hearing the word in isolation. It could be a little difficult to pick up on that. I think that one of the reasons why people perceive that Dominicans speak faster because, honestly, I think Spainards also speak pretty fast. I went to Panama and they also speak pretty fast. I think a lot of people speak fast, almost like it’s a competition like, “We speak the fastest Spanish!” Right? But I think that when you add that with dropping off these letters and the words get shorter, a lot of it is the shortening of the words that people don’t know is happening so they perceive it as being faster than it may really be because these words are just… there are syllables missing, right? There's entire letters missing.

13:03 – 13:39

Kesia: Yes, yes.

 

Host: So once I got the hang of that, it made a lot more sense to me, at least listening to people from the DR. I say oh okay, they’re going to say ‘cansao.’ I even start talking like sometimes to the point that eventually I had people tell me or ask me am I from the Dominican Republic, and I’m like obviously not.  Obviously I'm a gringa. But I think it’s just because I picked up some of these habits because I listen to so much of the music that I tend to maybe do some of these things as well.

 

Okay so the ‘d’ is the enemy. What is another characteristic of Dominican Spanish that’s true for the whole country?

13:39 – 14:17

Kesia: We also omit the letter ‘s.’ For example, the letter ‘d’ normally disappears when it’s in the middle of the word like ‘cansado’ right? The letter ‘s’ can disappear, it doesn’t matter where it is. If it’s in the middle of the word or at the end of the word. You have words like ‘esta’ and it could be ‘eta’. For saying, ‘Esta muchacha’ like ‘this girl’ would be ‘eta muchacha’. Or even the verb ‘es’ como ‘ella es’ she is, you would say ‘ella e’ and you would just use the letter ‘e’.

 

14:17 – 14:27

Host: Wow… okay.

 

Kesia: Or saying ‘tienes’ then you would say ‘tiene’. So the letter ‘s’ disappears in most of the words.

14:27 –

Host: It’s really interesting too because just from a grammar perspective, if you’re hearing that, and you hear ‘tiene’ you might be thinking ‘Ah but ‘tiene’ is for Usted or ‘tiene’ is for ella.’ You might think its like a grammatical error, like ‘Oh they’re not saying the right – they’re not supposed to be saying ‘tú tiene’. It’s ‘tú tienes.’’ But it’s just the accent. It’s not necessarily grammatically incorrect, but you won’t notice that. Just don’t get confused by hearing that. It’s not a change in the conjugation. It’s just the accent. The S's kind of disappear.

15:03 – 15:25

Host: That does not apply to S's at the beginning of words because that would be really confusing, right? (laughter)

 

Kesia: Mmm yeah, no no. Not at the beginning. Yeah you’re right.

 

Host: Yeah, that would be really weird. Like if I tried to say, ‘Yo sé’ and I say ‘Yo é.’ (laughter)

 

Kesia: No no. (laughter) That would make no sense.

Host: Ok, so just if it’s in the middle or at the end and –

 

Kesia: The middle or the end of the word.

15:25 – 15:49

Host: Something else I noticed about Dominican Spanish in general is some of the informality of it. I found that in classes and apps and things we learn this very formal ‘Hola! ¿Cómo está Usted? Yo estoy bien gracias. ¿Y usted?’ But nobody ever talks like that, right? It sounds like a robot.

 

Kesia: No! (laughter)

15:49 – 16:11

Host: And I know one thing. When I first, I think the first time I went to the DR and I was really surprised how things sounded. I’m expecting people to say ‘Cómo estás tú? But I hear it in a different order. It’s sometimes the ‘tú’ can be put before the ‘estás’. Is that something that’s uniquely Dominican or is that just for emphasis? What’s that about?

16:11 – 16:34

Kesia: I think it’s something more Dominican, yeah. We will switch the order of the words. So I would say something like, ‘Ay ¿cómo tú tá?’ You know? The person comes first. It’s something very Dominican.

 

Host: Yeah and even that ‘¿Cómo tú tá?’ is ‘¿Cómo tú estás?’ right? We just talked about the ‘s’ going away. Right?

 

Kesia: Oh yeah!

16:34 – 16:52

Host: So it would sound like ‘¿Cómo tú tá? ¿Cómo tú tá?’ Right?

 

Kesia: Mmhm.

 

Host: But you’re like ‘¿Cómo estás tú?’ Right?

 

Kesia: Mmhm!

 

Host: So it can sound a little abrupt too if you’re not used to that. You might be thinking, ‘Why is this person talking to me so aggressively?’ or like ‘What are they even saying?’

 

Kesia: Yeah…

16:52 – 17:38

Host: Yeah, it’s just like a normal greeting. I think, like I said, when you combine the ‘d’ disappearing, the ‘s’ disappearing, kind of speaking loudly, it all comes together to sound super fast if you’re not familiar with these sort of aspects of Dominican Spanish. It’s really interesting to kind of delve into this. With that we’re going to wrap up our conversation for this episode.

Thank you so much Kesia for your time. This has been really insightful and I’m hoping that anyone that’s listening is really able to learn a little bit more about Dominican Spanish and why it sounds different. Hopefully it’s not so much of a mystery anymore, and the next time you hear someone from the Dominican Republic, you can listen for some of these things and you’ll be able to really pick up on the Dominican accent. Hopefully this has been helpful for everyone, and again I want to thank you Kesia for your time.

17:38 – 18:06

Kesia: It was a pleasure. I enjoyed it.

Host: And this is not the last we’ll hear from her. We’re going to talk a little bit more in upcoming episodes more about Dominican Spanish where we’ll get more into some of the vocabulary that she mentioned about… you know, there are a lot of words that are uniquely Dominican. And not just words but also some phrases and expressions that you’ll only hear in the Dominican Republic. In future episodes we’ll get a little bit deeper into that so that you can understand some of the vocabulary from the DR as well.

18:06 – 18:34

Host: Don’t forget to check out the show notes at learnspanishconsalsa.com/dominicanspanish and you’ll get a full transcript of this episode. You may have noticed that towards the beginning of the conversation we talked about the different regions in the Dominican Republic. We talked about el Cibao in the North. We talked about the East which is famous for Punta Cana. And we talked about the South which is also where the capital of Santo Domingo is.

18:34 – 18:54

Host: Now each one of those regions has its own unique accent, and they can actually sound quite different. So in Part 2 of the conversation we really get into some more details of the differences of the accents within the country, and we give you some specific examples of how the accent sounds depending on what region of the Dominican Republic the speaker is from.

18:54 – 19:28

Host: So if you want to hear Part 2 of the conversation go to dominicanspanish101.com/freetrial. I’ll also link that in the show notes. There you’ll be able to sign up for a free trial of the Dominican Spanish 101 audio course. It’s completely free, so once you sign up for the free trial you’ll be able to access the section on a Dominican accent and you can hear Part 2 of this conversation.

19:28 – 19:59

Host: It really is quite interesting. You might be surprised at how different Dominicans sound depending on what part of the country they are from. So definitely check that out at dominicanspanish101.com/freetrial and you can hear Part 2 of today’s conversation. So that brings us to the end of this episode of Learn Spanish con Salsa. It’s my sincere hope that you learn something today to take you one step closer from Spanish beginner to bilingual. Hasta luego.

 

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