The main difference in Cuban Spanish is the pronunciation. The weak pronunciation of consonants is a main characteristic in Cuban Spanish.
- The final /s/ will often disappear, or be transformed to /h/. The pronunciation of /n/ will be dropped to /ŋ/. /r/ may disappear completely or convert to /l/ or /j/. /d/, /b/, and /g/ are also barely pronounced if they occur after a vowel.
- The loss of /s/ is important in Cuban Spanish pronunciation because this can occur in the middle of a word as well, eg. mosca(fly) could be pronounced “mo(h)ca”. In the capital of Cuba, Havana, you will frequently hear that después(after) is pronounced “depue”.
- Intervocalic deletion with /d/ is common in past participles and adjectives etc. For example llegado (arrived) would be pronounced “llegao”.
- The pronunciation of “ll” is also more commonly pronounced as “j”, which is different to most parts of mainland Spain.
Many of these Cuban traits are similar to those of the Canary Islands or Andalucía. Being similar to the dialect of the Canaries means that Cuba still retains some archaic Spanish vocabulary.
Another characteristic of Spanish spoken in Cuba is that when calling something a little version, they add the diminutive “ico/a”, instead of the “ito/a” used in Spain.
The way people are addressed in Cuba is also different; “Compañero/a” is used instead of the usual “Señor/a”. When speaking to strangers or to the elderly, Cubans speak more formally as a sign of respect, so “usted” is used. It is also however common to address a stranger with affectionate names such as “cariño” (dear), “mi corazón” (my heart), or “mi amor” (my love).
As with every country, slang and daily expressions make each dialect unique, so let’s take a look at a few examples of typical Cuban vocabulary:
- Asere/ Caballo – friend
- Gao – house
- Jama – food
- Máquina – car
- Monado – police
- Un paquetero- a liar
- Pinchar – to work
- Pulover – T-shirt (American influence)
- ¿Qué bolá? – How are you?
- Yuma – foreigner