If you are about to start learning Spanish in Cuba there are a couple of important things that you should know first that will make your learning experience a little easier.
Cubans speak a little fast, but if you tell a Cuban that you do not understand what he is saying, he will try to speak slowly for you which will make it much easier to understand what he is saying.
Cubans are very expressive with their movements, but do not be scared, that is their way of making you understand better, funnily enough they will also understand you better if you use your hands more than you otherwise would and make gestures with your face. Yes, it’s like being in a theatrical play…all the time. It’s funny to see, but there’s no better way to communicate with a Cuban when you’re learning Spanish than with body language.
In general, Cubans omit certain syllables and consonants when they say a few words. For example, when you want to say “Quiero ir para la fiesta,” (I want to go to the party) you might hear it like “Quiero ir pa la fiesta”. The accents vary according to the region of the country, but usually the “s” at the end of the word is not pronounced. A phrase like “Ay, dios mío!” (Oh, my god!), sounds “Ay, dioh mío!”.
Cubans have many colloquial words that express the same meaning, they may address you with an expression you do not know. Do not worry if someone on the street says “asere”, or “consorte”, “socio”, all those mean “amigo” (friend), or are a way to call you when they do not know your name, it is not a derogatory term.
Cubans are not shy, and that makes them good teachers. Not only are they willing to listen to you, but they will not be ashamed to let you know when you are making an error in pronunciation or grammar. They will flatter you when you show that you know how to apply your knowledge.
Finally, if you have a Cuban friend and you want to impress him with your Spanish, when you say goodbye, add: “chao pescao” (bye, fish). It has the same meaning as “See you later, alligator”. We assure you that he will be shocked. 😉