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Cuban Spanish

Cuban Language

Cuban Spanish. The Cuban language is mostly influenced from the Spanish spoken in the Canary Islands, due to the considerable wave of emigration.

Cuban Spanish is the form of Castilian Spanish used in Cuba. While, on the whole, it is not very different from the Spanish spoken in mainland Spain, it does contains some vocabulary, grammatical structures and pronunciations that are quite different from Castilian Spanish. The Cuban language is mostly influenced from the Spanish spoken in the Canary Islands, due to the considerable wave of emigration from the islands to Cuba.

Apart from the Canary Islands, the indigenous tribes of Cuba have played an important part in the development of the language. This is most notable in the variety of unique vocabulary words that exist in Cuba and do not appear in other Spanish speaking countries. English has also played a small part in the development of Cuban Spanish due to its proximity but also, particularly, from the time when Cuba was under US control.

One of the most noticeable traits of Cuban Spanish is the soft pronunciation of consonants, especially at the end of words. ‘S’ and ‘r’ are both spoken fairly weakly, or sometimes not at all. This is a similar phenomenon that is found in the accent from the region of Andalusia in southern Spain. Another distinguishing feature is the way the ‘N’ is pronounced, often as ‘eng’.

A good example of a sentence where the pronunciation would be different in Cuban Spanish would be: “esas personas están amarradas” (those people are tied up), which would be pronounced like “ésah persónah están gamarrádah”. In the same way, words like disfrutar, perro and terminar, for example, would be pronounced ‘difrutál’, ‘péroh’ and ‘terminál’.

Cuban Words

It’s not just pronunciation that is different in Cuba, but vocabulary too. Some word changes are political. Cuba is a communist state, and the word compañero (comrade) is used more often than señor to address someone. Other words that differ include bodega, which means tienda (store), chama is niños (children) and even whole Cuban phrases like ¿Qué bolá? which means ¿Qué pasa? (What’s up?).

A final difference in spoken Cuban Spanish is sentence structure and word order. For example, Cubans will frequently say the subject pronoun when accompanied with a verb, even though its use is redundant: e.g. manaña yo voy a ir al parque. The use of the past tense is also different compared to European Spanish. Whereas in Spain someone will refer to something that happened earlier in the day by using the past perfect (e.g. he ido al parque), Cubans will on the whole use the preterit (e.g. fui al parque), despite only going to the park an hour ago. Cubans will only use the past perfect if that action is still affecting them at that moment. The final difference in sentence structure is the way they order their words in a sentence. Normally, the order is:  subject + verb + object. In Cuba, they would swap the object and the verb, so they would ask “¿Cómo tú estás?” or “¿Dónde tú vas?” instead of  “¿Cómo estás tú?” or “¿Dónde vas tú?”.