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The Caribbean is, simply put, paradise. It�s also home to a large Spanish-speaking
population that expresses the language with unique Caribbean Spanish words and
expressions.
When I first started learning Spanish, I didn�t consider the Caribbean. In Spanish
class in school, I learned about Spain and Mexico.

When I thought about the Caribbean, I thought about the Bahamas, Trinidad, Jamaica,
and the Virgin Islands. When I thought about the language in the Caribbean, I
thought about Patwah and the distinct accent of Caribbean English speakers.

I was surprised to learn that Spanish speakers outnumber speakers of other


languages in the Caribbean by 4 to 1.

Due to the history and geography of the region, Caribbean Spanish speakers have a
unique way of speaking the language.

If you are learning Spanish as a second language, understanding some of these


differences is critical when interacting with Spanish speakers.

Map of the Caribbean


Why Should You Learn Caribbean Spanish?
The Caribbean islands are sought-after travel destinations for many reasons. The
rich culture, delicious food, welcoming people, and pristine beaches are at the top
of the list.

Learning some Caribbean Spanish will help you have a much more interesting travel
experience than if you visit with a tourist mindset.

Even if you don�t plan on traveling to the Caribbean, you will find many Caribbean
Spanish speakers living in other parts of the world.

As I mentioned in the What Type of Spanish Should I Learn? article, if you live in
the US metropolitan areas of Philadelphia, Orlando, Boston, Tampa, New York, New
Jersey, Miami, Chicago, or Washington, DC you will likely find Latinos from the
Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.

Sizeable populations of Caribbean Spanish speakers can even be found in Spain and
South America.
And lastly, some of the best food and music comes from the Caribbean. Being able
to order food at your local Dominican restaurant, or enjoy the latest salsa,
reggaeton, or bachata hit are reason enough to learn Caribbean Spanish.

Caribbean Spanish 101


Throughout the centuries, the Spanish language has gone through a chaotic evolution
of dialects. In the Americas, Spanish quickly absorbed the native indigenous
languages.

The Caribbean in particular has had its fair share of cultural influences, well
after Christopher Columbus first set foot on the island of Hispaniola (modern
Dominican Republic and Haiti).

The major influences on the unique variety of Spanish spoken in El Caribe (The
Caribbean) come from African, European (Spanish, English, and French), and
Indigenous languages.

In the 1500�s, the Caribbean islands were heavily populated by African slaves that
spoke various African tongues, as well as an indigenous Taino population that had
their own native language.

Both populations were being ruled by Spanish conquistadors that came primarily from
the Andalusia region of southern Spain. For that reason, much of the Caribbean
Spanish dialect most closely resembles Spanish spoken there.

Historical map of the Spanish Caribbean in 1600


This mix of cultural influences has created a unique culture in the Caribbean,
which is expressed through the music, food, and language in the region.

Today Caribbean dialects of Spanish are spoken in the Dominican Republic, Puerto
Rico, Cuba, and the Caribbean coasts of Central and South America (especially
Colombia, Panam�, and Venezuela).

Many people recognize Caribbean Spanish speakers for speaking loudly and quickly.

The two most common roadblocks that both Spanish learners and native Spanish
speakers face when talking to a Spanish speaker from the Caribbean are accent and
vocabulary.

Caribbean Accent
Goodbye Letter �D�
One of the distinct characteristics of Spanish spoken in the Caribbean islands is
omitting the letter �d� in spoken language. When the letter �d� appears between
two vowels, it is generally not pronounced.

For example, instead of saying �enamorado� (in love), a Caribbean Spanish speaker
would say �enamora�o.� The word �cansado� (tired) is pronounced �cansa�o.� In
general, any word ending in �-ado� will sound like �-a�o�.

Feminine words ending in �-ada� are just pronounced with a stressed �a� sound,
omitting the �d� entirely. A female would say �estoy cans� instead of �estoy
cansada.�

Swallowing the Letter �S�


Another common characteristic of Caribbean Spanish pronunciation is swallowing the
letter �s.� Generally, the letter �s� is not pronounced or sounds like an
aspiration.
This is noticeable at the end of words, but also applies to the �s� sound in the
middle of a word.

The word �pescado� (fish), for example, sounds like �pe�ca�o� in Caribbean Spanish.

��Qu� quieres?� (What do you want?) actually sounds like ��Qu� quiere�?�

If you�re familiar with Spanish grammar, it may sound like the t� conjugation is
being confused with usted, but it�s just a feature of the accent.

Word Order Changes


In Caribbean Spanish, the pronoun generally comes before the verb in questions.
For example, the question ��De d�nde eres t�?� (Where are you from?) becomes ��De
d�nde t� ere�?�

The change in word order may sound grammatically incorrect, but it is fairly common
in day-to-day speech in the Caribbean.

Caribbean Spanish Vocabulary


Caribbean Spanish has its own unique vocabulary and expressions. Often a mix of
English and words from the indigenous languages of the area, these are words you
will not hear anywhere else in the Spanish-speaking world.

If you hear one of these words, you are almost certainly talking to someone that is
from or has had a lot of exposure to Caribbean Latino culture.

While there are specific words, phrases, and expressions unique to each island, the
following words are common among all Caribbean Spanish speakers:

1) Jeva � woman, chick, young lady, woman

Listen
Synonyms: mujer, chica, muchacha, mujer

Examples:

Mira a la jeva caminando.


Look at the chick that�s walking.

Las jevas de La Habana son bellas.


The women of Havana are beautiful.

2) Guagua � refers to a bus, van, or SUV

Listen
Synonyms: Autob�s

Examples:

Yo voy a trabajar en guagua.


I go to work on bus.

El pap� de Julian es chofer de guagua.


Julian�s dad is a bus driver.
3) Dale � interjection demonstrating approval, meaning �OK,� �that�s fine,� or �go
ahead�

Listen
Synonyms: est� bien, adelante

Examples:

Ve t� primero, dale.
You go first, go ahead.

Ella me pregunt� si quer�a que me preparara caf�. �Dale,� le dije.


She asked if I wanted her to make me coffee. �Okay� I said.

4) Rebul� � trouble or a fight between people

Listen
Synonyms: problemas, pelea

Examples:

Se armo un rebul� en la discoteca.


There was a bar fight at the club.

Ah� siempre tienen un rebul�.


There always trouble there.

5) Socio / Socia � close friend

Listen
Synonyms: amigo, consorte

Examples:

Arturo y Ra�l son socios.


Arturo and Raul are good friends.

Carlos era mi socio pero nos fajamos hace 3 a�os y ya ni hablamos.


Carlos was a close friend, but we fought 3 years ago and now we don�t even speak.

6) Yuca � a root vegetable used to make cassava bread and also eaten boiled or
friend in a variety of Caribbean dishes

Synonyms: Casava, Yucca

Examples:

Vamos a hacer un pur� de yuca.


Let�s make some mashed yucca.

Esta yuca es muy blandita.


This yucca is very bland.

Now you have an idea of the flavor of Spanish spoken in the beautiful islands of
the Caribbean.

I hope this has demystified some of the misconceptions of what�s said to be the
most difficult dialect of Spanish to understand.

Here are some resources for learning more Caribbean Spanish:

Dominican Spanish 101


Dominican Spanish Course
Cuban Spanish Guide
Cuban Spanish Course
Puerto Rican Spanish Slang

caribbean spanish infographic

Tamara Marie
�Hola! My name is Tamara Marie. I�m a language coach specializing in brain-friendly
methods to learn foreign languages faster. I speak English (US native), Spanish
(advanced), and Brazilian Portuguese (beginner). I�m a Latin music & dance addict
and passionate about helping people learn languages.

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