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Dominican Slang 101: What they say and what it means
After many years of trying to learn Spanish by osmosis you get tired of this technique and try to polish up your Spanish skills by practicing with some of your friends, who happen to be Dominican.

No matter how hard you try, you still haven’t been able to fully understand what your friends say when they venture off into side conversations. So you plan a trip to the Dominican Republic to enjoy the many pleasures the island has to offer, and maybe practice your Spanish skills while on the beach. Along with your sun tan lotion, bathing suit and digital camera, you pack a small English/Spanish dictionary filled with useful phrases that might come in handy during your stay. Simple phrases like ‘donde esta el bano?’ and ‘no gracias, no me gusta,’ offer you some comfort in knowing that though you won’t converse at the same rapid rate as the Dominican people, you’ll at least be able to get around with relative ease.

But then you arrive on the island and your head is spinning round while trying to understand what is being said around you. You can pick out a few words here and there, but for the most part you are lost in the context of what is going on.

As you continue your tour through the island, and as conversations progress, your level of Spanish also progresses, though you still find yourself getting lost at important junctures of the conversation, partly because you don’t know what certain things mean, and partly because they don’t exactly translate into English.

You shouldn’t worry about this because even the most seasoned Spanish speaker finds difficulty adjusting to the Spanish spoken in the Dominican Republic. The rapid fire delivery, varied accents, and diverse intonations can be challenging, but it is the stylized version of Spanish spoken here that can be the most challenging aspect of communication.

Like most countries in Latin America, people in the Dominican Republic speak Spanish in their own unique way. This version of Spanish varies slightly from the Spanish spoken by neighboring Puerto Rico and Cuba, and even more distinct from the rest of the Spanish spoken in Latin America. It is ultimately recommended to try to understand the version of Spanish spoken here, rather than comparing it with other versions of the language that a traveler has encountered, because this can cause great confusion.

One particular difference in the language comes from the change of certain consonants and vowels. In the capital region the “r” is changed to an “l,” so a word like “por que?” becomes “pol que.” In the north the “r” is changed to an “I,” so a word like “por que?” becomes “poi que?” And in the south the “l” is changed to an “r,” thus the proper name ‘Manuel’ becomes ‘Manuer.’

This is one of the many, yet, subtle differences of the Spanish spoken here. These differences aren’t hard to notice and adjust to, what is hard is identifying the slang which Dominicans use so comfortably in everyday speech.

From street vendors to billboards depicting official political messages, almost everyone speaks some form of slang; however this can depend on class, and can be a reflection of social/economic status. While most Dominicans have some level of formal education, slang is the way in which most Dominicans communicate. Though not imperative to integrating or getting around in the country, understanding the slang can allow one to enjoy some of the many quips and jokes that are often expressed through slang.

For example, if you and a friend agree that something is cool, instead of saying “esta bien,” most Dominicans would opt to say, “ta jevi,” “ta vacano,” or “ta nitido.” Or if you and a friend agree on something one might say, “ta to,” or even “fuego,” to indicate agreement. What if you had an event planned, but because of some circumstance the event failed to materialize one would say “eso se barajo,” literally saying that it was shuffled. And if you want to imply that your friend is crazy for having thought of said plan, you might exclaim, “tu ta pasao!” or “tu ta loco!”.
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