Hablamos Espanol Amigos!! Yes guys, as you may already know the official language in the Dominican Republic is Spanish and street signs and restaurant menus are written in it. Most people involved in tourism understand and speak English, and some speak other major tourism-related languages, such as German and French.
However, the further outside a tourism region one goes, the less likely it will become to find people who speak or understand anything other than Spanish. First rule: don’t panic!! It is not necessary to speak Spanish in order to visit Punta Cana, but learning a few words and phrases will definitely make one’s visit more enjoyable. The Dominican people are sure to be pleased with any effort made to try to speak their language.
As said above the population of the Dominican Republic is entirely Spanish-speaking, save for some recent immigrants. Schools are based on a Spanish educational model with English being taught as a secondary language in most public and private schools.
Moving out to Punta Cana and exploring the country apart from Spanish you may also hear Haitian Creole, spoken by the population of Haitian descent which has its base in French. There is also a community of about 8,000 speakers of Samaná English in the Samaná Peninsula. They are the descendants of formerly enslaved African Americans who arrived in the nineteenth century. Small numbers of immigrants and foreign workers also speak Italian, Chinese, East Caribbean English Creole, and Arabic. English is not common, nor is it the language used in businesses but like already said most of the hotel workers will speak it in the tourist areas; maybe is not fluent or totally correct but good enough to have a conversation.
It is important to point out that Dominican Spanish (Dominicanese) is not exactly the same Spanish spoken in Spain (the official Castilian), but a sort of dialect which has some different words from mainland Spain. For example guapo in Spanish means handsome, but in Dominican Spanish means angry. Patatas (potatoes) becomes papas. Gasolinera (gas station) is called la Bomba. In addition the spoken Dominican Spanish takes some getting used to as of the letter ‘s’ are dropped.
This means that mosquito becomes moquito or adios becomes adio. Also many words have letters or syllables completely missed out in the spoken language. For example, “where are you’’ should be dondé tu estas but you will hear it asked as dondé tu ta. This can be very confusing even for the Spanish speaking visitor and the total novice may find it very hard to look up words in the dictionary not knowing what letters actually should be in the word. There are also regional variations in the way words are pronounced.
For those who are planning to move to Dominican Republic some English speaking expats survive without learning the language, as long as they have someone to help them with any dealings with organisations such as phone, electricity etc. However life can be difficult if no Spanish at all is spoken. In order to live in the Dominican Republic, as well as in Punta Cana, it is certainly easier if one can speak even basic Spanish and the Dominicans appreciate those expats who try and converse with them in their language.
In order to work it is necessary to be pretty fluent unless working for a foreign company with no need to communicate with Dominicans. The daily newspapers are all in Spanish although there are a few on line newspapers who translate the news into English. Dominican television is all in Spanish with English programmes dubbed into Spanish.
If you do not want to arrive in Punta Cana totally unprepared, here you can find a good link with a list of the most common phrases you might use during your stay in Punta Cana.
We also suggest to keep always with you a pocket dictionary in case you get along with people that don’t understand English.