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Uncover Cuban Spanish: Study Key Phrases and Pronunciation Ideas

Basic vehicles and colourful colonial structure are a mirrored image of a bygone time, whereas the rhythms of reggaeton and salsa dance by way of the air. Is a visit to Cuba in your bucket listing? It’s positive to be a particular expertise and not possible to copy anyplace else on the planet, even amongst neighboring islands. Get pleasure from staples like black beans and rice or the well-known cubano sandwich on an island steeped in residing historical past. Spend the day exploring UNESCO World Heritage websites, stepping off the cobblestone streets into museums, church buildings, and plazas, or get to know the locals by way of a homestay or as part of a humanitarian journey. We will’t neglect the fantastic thing about its seashores, both. 

To take advantage of your expertise, you’ll wish to study Cuban Spanish forward of time. That method, you possibly can converse with the locals and get to know their uniquely vibrant tradition! 

However even for those who’re not practising your Spanish in Cuba, you could encounter Cuban Spanish in Florida, New Jersey, Mexico, or the Dominican Republic. You could be eager about enhancing your information of Cuban Spanish you hear in on-line communities, by way of household and pal connections, or by way of music and artwork! 

Under, we’ll stroll you thru the nuances of Cuban Spanish, together with distinctive pronunciation and vocabulary. To grasp the fundamentals and past, you can even dive proper into Rosetta Stone, out there in Latin American Spanish. Via immersive, bite-sized classes, you possibly can construct your Spanish talking expertise in a enjoyable, participating atmosphere—no memorization required. 

Why is Spanish spoken in Cuba? 

As with most of Spain’s former colonies—and far of the Caribbean—Cuba was formed by the  transatlantic slave commerce. Spanish grew to become the dominant language all through the nation. The colonial powers used Spanish in all features of public life, together with authorities, training, and faith. Spanish remains to be the official language of the island, and is spoken by nearly all of its inhabitants. 

Cuban Spanish is distinct in its sample of speech, which means the way in which it sounds—from pronunciation to pacing—is barely completely different from extra “normal” variations of Latin American Spanish. These nuances mirror the Spanish that was spoken within the Canary Islands through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Audio system acquainted with West African languages might discover the lingering influences that also exist in Cuban Spanish in the present day. 

Observe that Cuban Spanish is taken into account a dialect of Spanish; it’s nonetheless comparatively simple for audio system of any Spanish dialect to know the language. In distinction, Haitian Creole, a language with French roots, thrives in sure communities. As a result of it’s a creole language, and never a dialect of French, it’s a lot more durable for French audio system to know. Lucumi, a liturgical language spoken by practitioners of Santería, can also be current. 


How many individuals converse Spanish in Cuba?

Roughly 11 million individuals converse Spanish in Cuba. In the US, Miami, Florida is well-known for its ties to Cuban Spanish, with nearly 2 million extra of the inhabitants reporting that they converse Spanish at dwelling. There are giant Cuban Spanish talking communities in New Jersey, New York, California, and Texas.  

In Cuba, individuals not solely converse and perceive Spanish, but in addition learn and write it, because the Cuban system of free and common training (from early years to college), has fostered one of many highest literacy charges on the planet.  

What does a Cuban Spanish accent sound like? 

Most individuals can’t understand their very own accent, however nearly everybody’s speech is affected by the place they grew up. English audio system from around the globe all appear to have vastly completely different pronunciation and tone, however can perceive one another. Evaluate Louisiana to Liverpool, or Sydney to Scotland, and you’ll perceive what we imply once we talk about the range of regional accents!

It’s essential to notice that there is no such thing as a one explicit Cuban Spanish accent. Similar to in English, there are regional variations, even between the East or the West of the identical island. Along with area, era, gender, and socio-economic components can affect somebody’s accent. The precise native accent may be apparent for a Cuban Spanish speaker, whereas for a learner, Cuban Spanish would possibly sound just like Puerto Rican or Dominican Spanish. In the event you’re a cautious listener, there may very well be a couple of hints that set Cuban Spanish audio system aside! 

One of many distinguishing traits of Cuban Spanish is widespread among the many different Caribbean dialects, comparable to Puerto Rican Spanish. The ultimate s sound can disappear solely, or turn into barely aspirated, like a gentle English h or Spanish j. An s in the midst of the phrase might also disappear, leaving phrases like después (after) sounding like deh’pue’. On this case, el e’pañol cubano may very well be extra obscure till you get used to this function.  

Phrases that finish in -ado and different “vowel-d-vowel” patterns might lack the d sound in speech, sounding like cansa’o as an alternative of cansado (drained). Different instances, consonants are softened a lot that they’re nearly absorbed into one other sound within the phrase, as within the pronunciation of pierna (leg) that feels like pie’nna, or charla (chat) which can sound like challa. Magnifico might sound extra like ma’nifigo

Relying on who you speak to, another options might stand out, together with: 

  • ll feels like y
  • rolling r sounds
  • r sounding like l
  • i sounds turning into e sounds
  • v or b feels like a w in sure phrases, and the 2 letters are pronounced identically
  • z feels like s 
  • arduous c sounds sounding extra like g
  • t may very well be extra strongly pronounced, with extra air
  • extra nasally sounds throughout all speech 

When evaluating Japanese and Western Cuba, some proof means that the Western area speaks a modernized model of Spanish (new slang, much less formal grammar), whereas the East sounds extra traditional and maybe extra sheltered from change. 

It’s value studying learn how to tune your ear to the sounds and tempo of Cuban Spanish, as it may be difficult for learners till they develop accustomed to the accent. And if you grasp that, enhance your pace and take a look at Dominican or Puerto Rican Spanish!  

>>Work in your accent with TruAccent know-how! 


What are the variations between Cuban Spanish and Normal Latin American Spanish?

Predominance of

Most Cuban Spanish audio system will make use of the casual (you) as an alternative of the extra formal usted (you). The extra formal pronoun is utilized in instances of true social hierarchy, however has gained a variety of floor, as it’s seen as rather more egalitarian and pleasant. The usage of vos (you) as an off-the-cuff pronoun has all however disappeared, however you could hear it every now and then. 

As in the remainder of Latin American Spanish, the ustedes (you) type is used for any plural usages, because the vosotros (the type of “you” utilized in casual plural conditions in Peninsular Spanish) doesn’t exist. 

Redundant use of topic pronouns

In a lot of normal Spanish, the topic pronoun is dropped solely until wanted for readability or emphasis. In Cuban Spanish, the topic pronoun is extra generally used despite whether or not it’s redundant.  

Sofía cube que ella quiere venir. =  Sofia says that she wish to come. 

This may very well be an affect of the English language, which might not drop the topic pronoun on this case. 

Topic pronouns are additionally positioned inside questions, after the interrogative and earlier than the verb:

¿Cómo estás? = How are you?

as an alternative of the extra widespread construction one would possibly see in different Spanish dialects: 

¿Cómo estás ()? 

It is a attribute of the Spanish spoken on the Canary islands, which has influenced lots of the Caribbean Spanish dialects. 

Use of diminutives

Many types of Spanish use -ito and -ita on the finish of a phrase to make the which means smaller, cuter, extra affectionate, and even derogatory, making it complicated for learners to catch the precise nuance and which means of a phrase. These suffixes are used an excellent deal in Spanish in Cuba, in addition to -tico and -tica

An individual may very well be known as bajo (quick), bajito, and even bajitico in Cuba. The identical adjective may be utilized to a low grade on an examination or poor attendance at an occasion. The selection of the usual adjective or number of suffix might rely upon tone or temper. 

Typically the suffix causes a change in which means, as a baby may very well be known as chiquito (small) as an nearly derogatory technique to say younger individual, but when an individual makes use of chiquitico they’re referring solely to the small stature of the kid.

Affect of different languages

Due to the affect of Taino and English, some vocabulary variations will exist in Cuba, or have even influenced the broader Spanish-speaking world. 

Canoa (canoe), hamaca (hammock), and tabaco (tobacco) had been all phrases that got here from Taíno, as they had been objects beforehand unknown to the Spanish colonists and settlers. 

Cuban Spanish in Miami, Florida

In communities the place Cuban Spanish and English talking Individuals are in shut proximity, there are markers of the mutual affect of the 2 languages. This will vary from easy borrowing of vocabulary to code-switching to such an extent that many have described it with the time period “Spanglish.” You see the affect of Spanish when an English speaker says that they had been dreaming “with” one thing or somebody, as an alternative of “about,” because the preposition can be used this manner in Spanish within the phrase soñar con (to dream about). 

The second era of Cuban-American immigrants could also be more adept in English than their dad and mom, and relying on the individual, English might have a stronger linguistic affect on their Spanish vocabulary and construction as effectively.  


What phrases or phrases ought to I do know if I’m touring to Cuba? 

Get a head begin in your research of Cuban Spanish with these helpful phrases!

Cuban Spanish That means
¿Qué bolá?  / ¿Qué volá?   What’s up?  (casual greeting) 
asere / acere casual phrase for pal, comparable to bro, mate, dude
coger un diez to take a break
ir bajando To go out, to depart
yuma A foreigner or vacationer, normally from the US. This will generally be used offensively, however not all the time. 
La Yuma The USA
una guagua a bus
pinchar to work
la pincha work
una chama slightly child
La Pura Mother (colloquial time period)
el gao the home
bonche occasion
Dáme un cinco. Look forward to me. 
una máquina automotive
una botella a trip
chévere superior, cool
la frutabomba papaya (utilizing the usual Spanish phrase for this fruit in Cuba refers to part of the feminine physique, so go for the Cuban slang phrase on this case!) 
una fosforera a lighter
por la izquierda “Below the desk,” as in not achieved out within the open. This will confer with a shady transaction. 
jamar to eat / to stuff oneself
Voy a hacer café This generally is a trace to eliminate a visitor, as in, “I’m prepared so that you can go away my home now!” 
tremendo mangón / tremenda manguita a really engaging individual
moño vira’o  in a really unhealthy temper
tu maletín it’s your drawback
tirar un cabo to assist somebody out

>>Right here’s 100+ primary Spanish phrases so as to add to your vocabulary! 

Discover Spanish in each area with Rosetta Stone

As one of many most generally spoken languages, you’re destined to come across Spanish regardless of the place you might be on the planet. Over 20 nations declare Spanish as their official language—from Cuba to Equatorial Guinea—and whereas every dialect is distinct, the basics of Spanish are a must-know. 

Rosetta Stone might help you by focusing your language studying journey on what issues most.  As a Rosetta Stone learner, you’ll capitalize on early successes to spice up your confidence quick. Our Dynamic Immersion methodology offers most publicity to a brand new language, by way of audio spoken by native audio system, written phrases, and real-world pictures. The whole lot is introduced within the new language, offering a really immersive expertise. Say ¿qué bolá? to your new language and get began in the present day! 

Written by Jamie Edwards

Jamie is a learner and trainer of Spanish and French. When she’s not studying new phrases, you’ll discover her on the soccer sidelines, ski slopes, and monitor and discipline bleachers having fun with the 4 seasons of Western New York.



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