Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Dominican Republic, the Land of Dominicanese and Fast Talkers

The Dominican Republic, one of two countries on the island of Hispaniola located in the Caribbean, was discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus. The country was under Spanish rule for three centuries. Although the official language is Spanish, the form of Spanish spoken in Dominican Republic is not exactly the same Spanish spoken in Spain.

Dominican Spanish is a language influenced by other cultures. When the Spanish arrived in the Dominican Republic, it was populated by the Tainos. During the Spanish rule, the Taino language was used less and less. However, the Tainos language still left its mark on both the language and culture of the country. The African language also influenced Dominican Spanish. African slaves that were transported to the Caribbean islands provided another layer to the language of the country.

When the Americans occupied the Dominican Republic for a time, they pushed the use of English. Today, English is taught in Dominican Republic schools. Some English words, especially those related to the country’s favorite sport which is baseball, served as inspirations for a few Dominican Spanish words. For example, the word for pitch in Dominican Republic is “pichar.”

When you visit this Caribbean nation, you would be surprised that the Spanish that you know is not exactly the Spanish spoken in the country. The Dominicans speak Dominicanese or Dominican Spanish. And this often confuses first time visitors to the country. When you want to say good or fine in Spanish, you say “bien.” But in Dominicanese, you use the Dominican slang “tato.” Other examples of words that are different in Spanish and Dominicanese are:

Aside from employing their own brand of Spanish words, the Dominicans also have a way of substituting letters in words or totaling dropping the last letter from a word. When you hear a Dominican saying “pol que” he means “por que.” The letter “r” is replaced by the “l.” In some regions of the country, the “i” is used in place of “r.” Examples are “poi favoi” instead of “por favor.” In the southwest, instead of using “l” in some words, they use “r” instead. “La capital” becomes “la capitar.” These are distinct regional differences that foreigners get confused about.

Just like the other rapid Spanish speakers in the Caribbean Islands, the Dominicans drop certain letters in words. The letter “d” is dropped in words like “colmado” which becomes “colmao.” “S” is also dropped. They say “gracia” instead of “gracias.” When you hear “Big Ma,” they probably mean “Big Mac.”

First time visitors are shocked at the way Dominicans speak. They are fast and animated talkers. At times, foreigners think that the locals are fighting because they speak in loud voices and display emphatic gestures. A passionate people like other Spanish speaking cultures, the rapid speed at which they talk is quite fascinating to hear and watch.

The Dominican Republic is not the only country in the world that developed its own brand of language based on Spanish. Other countries that were once under the Spanish rule speak their own versions of Spanish. Influences from other nations are bound to make their way into the local language. With the advent of the Internet and globalization, expect that Dominicanese will further evolve.


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