English, Spanish, and Dominican Spanish


On one of my first days here, Felix shared with me a great quote, “Italian is the language of the arts, English is the language of commerce, French is the language of love, and Spanish is the language of God.”  I laughed because I had previously echoed this sentiment back in the States.  After I started going to the Spanish Mass back home and seeing how full all of the services were I joked that everyone needs to learn Spanish because that will be the language everyone uses in Heaven.

Ever since I returned from Costa Rica in 2012 I have been completely enamored with the wonderful language that is Spanish.  One of the most beautiful, as well as frustrating, facets of Spanish is how diverse the language is.  The Spanish spoken here in the Dominican Republic is much different than the Spanish in Costa Rica (in CR the tu form of verbs is almost never used).  Compared to the Spanish I learned at the University of Dallas, the Dominican Spanish is nearly a separate language!  Also, because the majority of our interactions are with uneducated Dominicans the slight differences in the language are amplified.  Thus, while my Spanish has most definitely improved, especially with respect to comprehension and listening, I have had to learn a new form of Spanish that is not found in any textbook.

I have yet to meet a Dominican who enunciates the ‘s’ at the end of any word.  In fact, an obvious tell that you are not from the DR is if you say “entonces” instead of “entonce” or if you say “ya tu sabes” (you already know) instead of “ya tu sabe”.  Felix often jokes that there are two types of Spanish here: the Spanish spoken at the Church and on the news, and the Spanish spoken in the streets and at the Colmado. Here are just three examples: to say ‘what’s up’ or ‘how are you’ to a friend the Dominicans say, “¿Cómo tu ta?” or (even more difficult), “¿Que lo que wey?”  The two most common responses to this salutation are “tranquillo” (doing just fine) or, “en la lucha” (in the struggle).  Also, instead of saying ‘mucho’ (a lot) they say, “pila” and instead of saying “un poco” they say, “un ching”, for example, “nos vamos al concierto para un ching, estarà pila gente por allá.” (We’re going to the concert for a little bit, there’s going to be a ton of people there).  The problem is the people respond so fast that it becomes exceedingly difficult to follow along. However, I am making progress, ching a ching!

Other than that, Felix and I are making great strides in acquiring a small house to start our Catholic Worker House of Hospitality.  We continue to do our usual route every morning to meet, pray, and give food to the homeless.  I recently purchased a cheap violin and have been playing for the homeless regularly, it has been so much fun.

“Dear Lord, thank You for your infinite mercy and love. Thank You so much for all of my blessings, especially the opportunity to learn the beautiful language that is Spanish. Please grant me patience as I continue to learn. Please bless my family back home as well as the homeless here in the DR.”


David Janicki


One thought on “English, Spanish, and Dominican Spanish

  1. Just wanted to say, thanks for writing! (I took your initial fears quite seriously when you didn’t…) God bless! “…of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full” (Ps. 33:5a)
    I’m learning to wait, to see what more God is doing in your life.


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