Does Dominican Republic Speak Spanish?
Does Dominican Republic speak Spanish? The short answer is yes! However, the long answer is fascinating and worth exploring.
Keep reading to learn about the languages, history, and culture of the Dominican Republic!
Basic Facts about the DR
The Dominican Republic is in the eastern portion of Hispaniola. It is the second-largest Caribbean country, covering approximately 18,700 square miles. The DR shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
Christopher Columbus and his crew landed on the island on December 5, 1492. The present-day Domican Republic was part of the Spanish empire until the late 18th century. In the 19th century, France, Spain, and Haiti controlled it at different times. The U.S. occupied the DR from 1916 to 1924.
The current population is approximately 10 million, with about 3 million people living in the capital, Santo Domingo.
A number of languages are spoken in the Dominican Republic, but Spanish is the country’s only official language.
What is Dominican Spanish?
Spanish is the official language and the most spoken language in the Dominican Republic.
A variety of Spanish languages are spoken within the country. Collectively, these are referred to as Dominican Spanish.
Dominican Spanish is not only spoken in the Dominican Republic but also among the Dominican diaspora in the U.S., who mainly live in New York City, New Jersey, Boston, Philadelphia, and Miami.
The dialect is a subset of Caribbean Spanish, which is based on Canarian and Andalusian dialects of southern Spain. The indigenous people of the island prior to colonization were called Arawak. Dominican Spanish thus borrows some words from Arawak language, as well as from the African languages spoken by Africans who came to the island.
Spanish is spoken by about 90% of the country’s population. It is the main language for commerce, business, government offices, and schools. In addition, most media publications in the Dominican Republic are printed or recorded in Spanish.
What Other Languages are Spoken in the Dominican Republic?
Does Dominican Republic speak Spanish? Yes, but like most modern countries, two other language varieties are spoken within the borders of the Dominican Republic.
Over 160,000 people in the DR speak Haitian Creole. The majority of its speakers are Haitian descendents and immigrants.
The language is based on French and is influenced by Spanish and West African languages. The majority of Haitian Creole speakers in the Dominican Republic are bilingual with Spanish as a second language.
Haitian Creole is not officially recognized in the Dominican Republic. Many consider it to be a foreign language.
This variety of English is spoken by about 12,000 inhabitants in the northeastern part of the DR. Its speakers are mainly descendants of Black immigrants from the U.S. known as Samana Americans.
Samana English is similar to Caribbean English Creole. Sadly, due to government policies, it has declined and is an endangered language in the Dominican Republic.
Foreign Languages Spoken In The Dominican Republic
Though it’s true that the Dominican Republic does speak Spanish, both French and English are considered mandatory foreign languages in Domincan schools. English is mostly spoken by tourists visiting the country and expatriates.
The most common native languages spoken in the Dominican Republic are as follows:
- Dominican Spanish (85% of the population)
- Haitian Creole (2%)
- Samana English (1%)
- Chinese (0.5%)
- Japanese (0.1%)
- Italian (0.1%)
- Other (11%)
How Does Dominican Republic Speak Spanish?
Dominican Spanish is unique. Let’s learn about its unique vocabulary words and slang, pronunciation peculiarities, regional influences, and indigenous roots.
Dominican Spanish: Vocabulary Words and Phrases
Dominican Spanish features unique vocabulary words such as:
- La habitación (room) in Spanish is el aposento in Dominican Spanish
- Bien (good) in Spanish is el tato in Dominican Spanish
- El autobús (bus) in Spanish is la guagua in Dominican Spanish
- El árbol (tree) in Spanish is la mata in Dominican Spanish
7 Dominican Spanish Slang Words
1. Vaina – thing, stuff
In the DR, vaina is either neutral or negative, but never positive. Vaina has four main meanings:
Esa vaina es fea.
That thing is ugly.
Él está echando vaina.
Ella me trató de vaina.
She treated me with indifference.
2. Bacano – great, cool
This popular Colombian slang phrase is also very common in the Dominican Republic. If something is bacano, then it is really good and the person likes it a lot.
Dude, let’s go.
3. Colmado – corner store
Colmado is a useful word to know if you are in the DR and are looking for a quick snack. A colmado is a small convenience store.
4. Concho – taxi car/motorcycle
Looking for a fun way to get around the DR and hang with the locals? Grab a concho.
5. Yala – okay
You use this word in informal settings with friends.
¿Quieres ir para un helado?
Do you want to go have ice cream?
6. Dime a ver – what’s up?
Dime a ver literally translates as “tell me so I can see” but has the meaning of “what’s up?”
¿Dime a ver?
7. Que lo que – what’s happening?
A favorite Dominican greeting is “¿Que lo que?“
¿Que lo que?
What’s going on?
Dominican Spanish Pronunciation
Dominicans pronounce certain sounds differently from other Spanish speakers. For example, in some areas of the DR, people don’t enunciate the last r sound in verb infinitives such as estar, comer, and dormir.
They also tend to speak rapidly, as do many native Spanish speakers from islands and coastal areas.
As with many Caribbean regions, Dominicans omit the s sound nearly all the time. This can be problematic for understanding and creates more homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings) than usual.
A pronunciation phenomenon known as ceceo operates in Dominican Spanish—and in all Latin American Spanish varieties. This means that s and z are both pronounced as s.
In Domincan Spanish, the d is silent in words that end in –ado/a, -ido/a, and -edo/a.
- casado (married) is pronounced “cas-a-oh”
- dedo (finger) is pronounced “day-oh”
- partido (game) is pronounced “part-ee-oh”
Indigenous Influences on Dominican Spanish
When the Spanish arrived, the indigenous language of Hispaniola was Taíno. The Spanish language borrowed many words from Taíno for things they encountered in “the New World.”
Anything found in the Caribbean and not in Europe had a Taíno name. Interestingly, “hurakã” (storm) in Taíno became huracán (hurricane) in Spanish.
In fact, many English words, such as manatee, hurricane, and barbecue come from Taíno! Here are a few Dominican Taíno words to add to your vocabulary:
- La nana – little girl
- La batata – sweet potato
- El maco – toad
- La jicotea – turtle
- La cacata – tarantula
- Chin chin – a bit
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Speak Spanish Today!
Congratulations! You’ve learned the basics of Domincan Spanish and the nuanced answer to the question, “Does the Dominican Republic speak Spanish?”
Spanish is a widely spoken and powerful language that opens doors and creates new relationships and opportunities. Are you ready to join the club? Learning Spanish is fun, especially in one-on-one classes with native Spanish-speaking teachers who are friendly, engaging, and professionally certified. Sign up for a free class today to see how quickly you can sharpen your Spanish skills.
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