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Spanish is spoken in Cuba.
When choosing your tourist destination in the Caribbean, one of the options is visitting the beautiful island of Cuba. The Republic of Cuba, official name, is a Caribbean country, an island, in Central America, whose capital and at the same time the most populous city is Havana. Its population reaches more than 11 million inhabitants and its official language is Spanish.
What language is spoken in Cuba?
Cuba has an official language: Spanish. Cuban Spanish is the most widespread, spoken by more than 11 million natives. It belongs to the Indo-European family of languages and to the group of Western Ibic languages. It is a variant of the Spanish language and shares numerous characteristics with other Spanish varieties spoken in the region.
The entire population speaks Spanish, but they can also be found speaking other languages due to the settlements. In this way, Haitian Creole is in second place. This language is currently spoken by Haitian immigrants who came to the island during the Haitian revolution in the late eighteenth century, their descendants who have learned it.
Other languages that are also spoken in the country to a lesser degree due to migration are Galician, Corsican and Catalan. Catalan has about 3,500 speakers in the Cuban state.
Where does this language come from?
The language spoken in Cuba today comes from Spain, that a compulsory process during colonization took root in Cuba, a common fact in all of America according to the power that colonized each region.
Specialists declare that the variety of Spanish spoken in Cuba is Cuban Spanish, which is a sub-dialect of Caribbean Spanish. Between the western and eastern parts of the island there are slight differences in intonation and vocabulary. It originated from the Spanish of Andalusia and, for the most part, from the Canary Islands, with which it has more similarities. In addition, it includes Canarian vocabulary, which is distinguished from standard Spanish, such as the words guagua (bus) or fajar (fight).
Spanish today in Cuba.
Aboriginal presence in the language spoken in Cuba.
In Cuba as in the rest of the Antilles, the linguistic influence of the American Indians maintains its presence. Many of those words are used actively in everyday speech, here are some examples.
A: ajiaco, anón, arique, aura, bajareque,
B: batey, vines, bija, bohío, caimán,
C: caney, casabe, cimarrón, comején, cobo, conuco, curiel, cutarra,
F: fotuto, guajiro, guanabana, guanajo,
G: guararey, guasasa, guava, guayo, güije / jigüe, güira, hammock, jaba,
J: jagüey, jíbaro, jicotea, jimagua, jutía, majá, mamey, mangle,
M: manigua, manjuarí, totí, yagua,
Y: yarey, yuca
in addition to lexical contributions common to general Spanish or even other languages such as:
chili, barbecue (english barbecue), batos (english bat), chieftain, canoe, mahogany, Cayo (English Cay), Hurricane (English Hurricane), corn, manatee (manatee), maracas, papaya, savanna, tobacco and shark.
Cubanisms, a particular way of speaking Spanish in Cuba
Cubanisms are witty expressions or phrases that the Cuban has adapted and that he uses in popular slang, always accompanying them with gestures, looks and the double meaning that characterizes him, let’s see some examples.
Fula: treacherous or bad person. It also refers to the American dollar, a dollar is equivalent to a fula.
Aseré que volá: it is a form of greeting equivalent to how you are. It is used with known people although some groups generalize it as a habitual greeting.
A la my love: It refers to not having worries and doing what you want. It also means walking naked.
Dar un aventón: Ask for a ride on the road.
Throwing a rope: Helping someone in any area of life.
Be a point: derogatory phrase that refers to who is not respected or extremely noble. It refers to infidelity in some cases
Palestinian: Person who comes from the eastern provinces, mainly from Santiago.
Differences between East and West.
Although Spanish is the official language in the country, there are differences in the way of speaking between those who live in the different regions of the country.
In the West there is a particular way of intoning and articulating. For example, in the West, l is changed to b or k, thus pronouncing pob- vo for powder and tak-ko for talc. In the East they say comel for eating or omit s in middle and final positions, as in etoy for estoy and fruta for frutas.
This adding the musicality that is given to the intonation, very particular in Santiago de Cuba due to the Haitian influence and the French language.
How many languages in Cuba?
Despite the fact that Spanish is the official language of Cuba and there are others that accompany it, such as the ones I already mentioned, according to research sponsored by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) International, not one but five languages are commonly spoken on the island.
This is possible due to the communities that maintain the tradition of continuing the language of their ancestors. These languages are Spanish, English, Haitian Creole, Mandarin and Lucumí., But there are small groups of Jamaicans, Caymanians and Chinese.
Communities that speak other languages
Specifically, several communities that speak other languages appear, we invite you to get to know them.
The Jamaican Quarter of the municipality of Baraguá, in Ciego Ávila is one of them Classified as a small community of English-speaking families from Jamaica, Barbados, Granada, Antigua, Saint Vincent and Nevis. Similarly, there are other similar districts in Holguín, Camagüey and the Isle of Youth.
The Chinatown of Havana is one of the most famous. Mandarin is spoken there, elderly people keep the customs of the Asian country alive and even have their newspaper written in this language.
In Cueto, Holguín there is a French community, or rather Haitian Creole. Valid to clarify that the French colonists emigrated after the Haitian Revolution with their slaves to Cuba and that their descendants have kept alive not only the language but also the French Tomb, declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Matanzas is the land of Lucumí, derived from the dialect of the African Yoruba tribes and learned through affiliation to religious beliefs.
Lucumí is a language used by a minority of the population. This was brought about as a result of slavery, Yoruba blacks brought from Africa during the eighteenth century, who brought customs, songs and their language. Everything was mixed in the process called transculturation.
These Yoruba slaves shaped the language, incorporating other Bantu languages spoken by African slaves along with the Spanish language used by slavers.
Lucumí is used in the santerías, a religion contributed by blacks who came from Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Togo and is used exclusively as a second language in a liturgical way, so it has no native speakers.
It is estimated that more than 300 thousand people speak Haitian Creole in Cuba. It has its origins in Haiti although it was inherited by the island in the sad process of migration and slavery. The original Haitian creole speakers were black slaves who immigrated to Cuba when the Haitian Revolution, along with their French masters.
Then others came looking for a source of work over the centuries as casual laborers in the sugar cane fields. They were always highly discriminated, however something changed since 1959, today they have a Haitian Creole radio program in the capital.
From them comes the singing in intonation when speaking of people from the eastern region, as well as the change from r to l at the end of verbs. So they say comel for comer, saltal for saltar and so on.
Other foreign languages spoken in Cuba: Galician and Corsican.
Native language of Spain spoken by the inhabitants of Galicia. It is closely linked to Portuguese, and the two languages are derived from the Western Ibic group of languages. There, more than 4 million people speak it. In Cuba, Galician is used by expats who live in the main cities of the country.
Corsican is another language brought by Italian immigrants. It originates from the Corsica and Sardinia regions in France and Italy, respectively, but is closely related to the Italian language, with the two sharing the Tuscan language group. In Cuba it is an important foreign language spoken by a significant population of Italian expatriates.
A list of Cuban terms that you will find useful when communicating:
Absorbente: Popete, straw
Ajustadores: Hold. Women’s intimate garment
Acere: Dude, buddy. “… what will fly?”
Bar: Bar counter
Bemba: Thick lips
Bohío: Thatched house in the countryside
Botella: Ride, ask for a free ride, hitchhike
Caballito: Police with motorcycle
Canilla: Very slim leg
Chavito: freely convertible currency (CUC)
Carro: Car, automobile.
Chamaco: Child, boy
Chofer: Every person who drives
Chicharritas: Thin green banana slices, fried
Divisa: before the dollar, now CUC
Está bueno ya!: enough
Estar hecho: Being in a good situation
Fufú: Boiled banana puree
Fula: Dollar or CUC
Tires: Car wheels.
Gringo / ga: Foreigner, especially English
Guarapo: drink made with sugar cane
Guanikiki: silver, money
Mata: tree or vegetable
Medio: Five cent coin
Medio tiempo: Middle-aged
Mijita o mija: Loving way to call someone
Mojito: Cuban cocktail
MAquina: American cars from the 50s, also known as Almendrón.
Niche: Black person
Papaya: Bomba Fruit or Female Sex Organ
Pincha: Work, employment
Parqueo: Parking, parking.
Pajaro / Bird: Gay.
Paladar: Catering service (frequently in the living room).
Síper: Zip closure
son: Popular dance music, originating from the old eastern province
Timón: Car steering wheel.