The main difference in Cuban Spanish is the pronunciation. The weak pronunciation of consonants is an important characteristic of 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/. Meanwhile, /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, e.g., 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. 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 and Andalusia.
Another characteristic of Spanish spoken in Cuba is that they use the diminutive “ico/a” instead of “ito/a”, which is more widely 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. However, it is also common to address a stranger with affectionate names such as “cariño” (dear), “mi corazón” (my heart), or “mi amor” (my love). Cuban Spanish has also been influenced by African languages.
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
- ¿Qué bolá? – How are you?
- Yuma – foreigner