Anyone who has been to Las Tablas and tried speaking Spanish to a taxi driver has probably questioned their own language ability, if not their ears and sanity. You see, many of the locals speak a dialect known as tableño. And to someone who learned any kind of “regular” Spanish, tableño is close to impenetrable.
My wonderful Spanish teacher, Edison Rodriquez Quintero, has given me some insight into this mysterious language. I had already observed that a final ‘s’ was likely to disappear, (Buen’ dia’! La’ Tabla’) but I had no idea the extent of what was swallowed. I only knew I couldn’t understand it.
The ‘es’ in esta is dropped, so it’s just ‘ta. The ‘ra’ in para drops off, leaving pa’. If that kind of thing were all of it, it would be tough enough for untrained ears, but there are all sorts of other pronunciation shifts and bits of slang. For instance, Dali! and Dali pue! are expressions of enthusiasm, much like OK! And there is a frequent use of Oísti, a corruption from the verb oir (to hear). This expression is perhaps similar to one used in the US South, “Ya hear?” For instance, a southerner might say something like, “Y’all come back now, ya hear?”
Edison was kind enough to provide me with a short dialogue about a proposed excursion to the beach at Uverito to illustrate tableño.
We’ll start you off with the English:
Amigo: Hey, what are you doing, Edison?
Edison: Nothing, I’m just here watching TV… why?
Amigo: Because I want to ask you to go to the beach with me.
Edison: OK! What beach are we going to?
Amigo: To Uverito.
Edison: OK, take me in your car, you hear?
Amigo: I’m going in five minutes.
Edison: I’ll be waiting, but get here fast.
Here is the same dialogue in Spanish:
Amigo: Hey, qué estás haciendo, Edison?
Edison: Nada, aquí viendo television… por qué?
Amigo: Es por si quieres ir a la playa conmigo.
Edison: OK! Para qué playa vamos?
Amigo: Al Uverito.
Edison: OK, me llevas en el carro? (Oyes?)
Amigo: Voy para alla en cinco minutos.
Edison: Te esperaré, pero vienes rapido.
And now, The Dread Tableño:
Amigo: Ey, que tai jaciendo Edison?
Edison: Na’, aquí viendu tele… y eso?
Amigo: Es por si querrei i a la playa conmigu.
Edison: Dali pue! Pa’ que playa vamu?
Amigo: Al Uverito.
Edison: Dali, me llevai en el carru? Oísti?
Amigo: Voy pa’ ‘lla en cincu minutu.
Edison: Te esperaré, pero veni rapidu.
So you could have the full flavor, Edison recorded it for me:
Edison Reads Tableño
And THAT is why you can’t understand the locals. Try reading along, or listening while you read the Spanish.
As a point of interest, Edison also told me there are regional dialects in lots of the smaller towns around here. Even in Monagrillo, a small town which is part of bustling Chitre, the largest place in the Azuero, they keep a taste of it. Women there are not mujeres, but muje. Be sure to say the last syllable through your nose.