The Dominican Republic is a beautiful and exotic island in the Caribbean which borders Haiti and is quite a popular tourist destination with English speakers, if not a world favorite. But how widely spoken is English there? Can English speaking tourists expect to get by there just using English?
In general, English is not very widely spoken in the Dominican Republic overall, with less than 10% overall prevalence, though it is more common in the popular tourist areas. English is taught in schools, but overall proficiency is still low, and Spanish is the official and by far the most widely spoken language there.
Therefore it will certainly help for any tourists visiting there to have some basic Spanish language skills to help get by. You cannot rely on English being spoken widely everywhere you go.
Looking through the different forums on this, the consensus was that English coverage in the Dominican Republic is patchy at best. Exact up to date statistics on the number of English speakers are hard to find, but 10% of the population seems a reasonably common estimate, but it may be lower, in single digit percentages.
English is a mandatory foreign language along with French and is taught in schools there, but the quality of the teaching is generally poor and English fluency rates remain low except in the most common tourist spots. That said, the Dominican Republic is ranked as the second best country in Latin America for English speakers, behind only Argentina, so the prevalence and fluency of English is still high for the region overall.
Spoken English in the Tourist Destinations
Despite the low overall prevalence of English speakers in the Dominican Republic, the people that do speak English are mostly concentrated in the major tourist areas as you would expect. The country does receive a fair amount of British and American tourists, and so the main hotspots will usually have staff who can converse in English.
Added to this is the fact that most of the holidaying in the Dominican Republic is done in resorts and complexes which receive a lot of English speakers each year and so are equipped to handle them and make sure at least some of the staff can speak English.
This means you won’t have any problems using English in any major hotel, tourist complex or resort, vendors, tour guides and shop owners in the main tourist spots in the capital Santa Domingo and Punta Cana.
Elsewhere in the country, if you are planning on venturing out of the main tourists areas, expect English proficiency to fall way off, and be non existent in some areas. This includes going out of any complex to maybe shop in downtown areas of Santa Domingo and other places.
Punta Cana is also another place which is reported to have not many English speakers if you go out of the main resorts. You can get by with the usual tourist gesticulating, but it really helps here to have some basic Spanish – see further below for more on this.
Sometimes, less customer facing staff in resorts and hotels, like gardeners and housekeeping staff, don’t have English. In these cases though, it is easy to either use Google translate on your phone, or else get hotel staff to write down any requests in Spanish to pass onto the other staff. There is always a way around language issues and tourists there always report being able to get things sorted one way or another.
Another huge benefit of visiting the Dominican Republic is the friendliness and helpfulness of the locals. Looking through all the forums on this, we couldn’t find a single account of someone not finding the staff and locals they encountered friendly and helpful. Tourist accounts almost universally say that any needs or requests they had were always met despite any language barriers.
Learning Some Basic Spanish Phrases
On the basis of everything we have said above, the Dominican Republic really is one of those places where you can get by with English, but it helps to learn some Spanish to help get you by, since English is not very widely spoken overall. You may get by with English in the main tourist areas, but the locals will always appreciate you having a few basic words of Spanish to help you along in interactions.
See the video and table for some basic standard Spanish phrases. The dialect of Spanish spoken in the Dominican Republic does differ from standard Spanish – see below for more on this – but standard Spanish is perfectly fine and will be understood by the locals.
|See you later
|See you tomorrow
|What is your name?
|Cuál es tu nombre?
|Kwall es too nombrey?
|My name is.....
|Mi nombre es
|Me nombrey es........
|How are you?
|Nice to meet you
|Encantado de conocerle
|Encan-tardo deh cono-therley
|deh naa da
|Loh see en-toh
|Sorry? (didn't hear something)
|Excuse me, do you speak English?
|Perdon, yo sólo hablo Inglés?
|Per-dohn, yo solo hab-low in-glaze?
|Menu of the day
|Menu del dia
|Menu del dee-a
|How much is it?
|Where is the bathroom?
|¿dónde está el baño?
|Don-day estah el banyo
|I don't understand
|No lo comprendo
|Noh loh comprendo
Here are some things to bear in mind though about using Spanish in the Dominican Republic:
- The Spanish spoken in the Dominican Republic (Dominican Spanish) is very similar to that spoken in the Canary Islands or Andalucian Spanish, with strong West African influences and some Portuguese twangs in there.
- In Dominican Spanish, there can be a tendency to drop the “s” that would normally be there in standard Spanish.
- There are also some words which are different from standard Spanish, and also some Portuguese words used.
- See this interesting article for examples of some of these differences.
- Despite all of these differences, standard formal Spanish will still be understood. Tourists and expats will learn the specifics of dialect and pronunciation over time.
- Locals from the Dominican Republic can sometimes speak quite fast and loudly, but this is seen as normal over there and visitors quickly adjust.
- Essential stats on Dominican Republic:
- Population: 10.6 million
- Time zone: EST +1 hour; GMT -4 hours.
- Currency: Dominican Peso (DOP) ($1 = 54 DOP; £1=64 DOP at time of writing)
- International calling code: +1-809, +1-829, +1-849 (see here for getting a working local SIM card/number when abroad)
- Drives on the right
- Luggage allowances – see here for an excellent guide on luggage allowances (checked and cabin) for all major airlines worldwide.
- You can also get a Spanish phrasebook here on our books page.