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Castilian Spanish vs Latin American Spanish

Spanish from Spain and latin american

What are the Differences between Spanish from Spain (Castilian Spanish) and Latin-American Spanish?

Similar to English, Spanish is not uniform across the globe. There are distinctions between Latin American Spanish (and its variations) and Spanish from Spain, encompassing diverse accents, dialects, and vocabulary. While the Spanish grammar remains largely consistent, there are a few differences, with the primary one being the use of the personal pronoun and the corresponding verb conjugations, specifically ‘vosotros’ in Spain and ‘ustedes’ in Latin America. Another important differences is the pronunciation of the letter ‘s’.

Español or Castellano?

Firstly, let’s clarify this matter: what is ‘Español’ and what is ‘castellano’ (or Castilian Spanish?). The Spanish spoken in Spain is commonly known as español, while in Latin America, it is often referred to as castellano (Castilian Spanish). In other words, it is the same language. Why is Spanish spoken in Spain called Castilian? This traces back to its origins to the province of Castile in central Spain, believed to be the birthplace of the Spanish language.

In Spain, Castilian Spanish or Castellano is used interchangeably with the “Spanish language.” While most people use the term Español, the formal name used in Latin America and Spain is “Castellano.” Additionally, in parts of Spain, regional languages such as Galician and Catalan are official languages, which are also considered “Spanish.” When the conquistadors arrived in Latin America, they brought their language (Castilian) from the 15th/16th century. This language amalgamated with local native languages, giving rise to new variations of Spanish.

When talking about the differences between the Spanish spoken in Spain and the Spanish spoken in Latin America, please note that classifying “Latin American Spanish” is challenging. Why? Because each Latin American country has its own expressions, vocabulary, accents, and some unique rules (see more below). Nonetheless, there are shared characteristics in Spanish across most Latin American countries, distinguishing it from Spanish in Spain.

Castilian Spanish from Spain

Why Are There main Differences between: between Spanish from Spain (Castilian Spanish) and Latin-American Spanish?

What are the Key Vocabulary Differences?

Spanish dialects exhibit variations in vocabulary, with different words used for the same things. Some words vary between countries, while others differ between regions. While attempting to list words commonly used throughout the entire Latin American region, it’s important to acknowledge that there are variations among countries. Most of the words listed can generally be understood by Spanish speakers, reflecting the considerable interaction between Spanish-speaking regions through media, music, and contemporary cultural phenomena like memes. Thus, even if a word is less common in one region, it is likely to be comprehended due to the shared linguistic influence among Spanish speakers.

A few examples of differences in vocabulary between Spain and Latin America

English Spanish from Spain Spanish from Latin America
Car Coche Carro
Lipstick Pintalabios Labial
Pyjama (el) pyjama (la) piyama
Banana Plátano Banana
Computer Ordenador Computador/a
Money Pasta Plata
Ticket Billete Boleto
Potato Patata Papa
Pen Bolígrafo Pluma/lapicero
Juice Zumo Jugo
Cellphone Móvil Celular
To show Enseñar Mostrar
To get mad Enadarse Enojarse
To lie down Tumbarse Acostarse
To drive Conducir Manejar
To miss Echar de menos Extrañar
T-shirt Camiseta Polo, Polera
Soda Refresco Gaseosa

What are the Key Grammar Differences?

  • Vos/Tú: In Spanish grammar, voseo involves using “vos” as the second-person singular pronoun (you), while tuteo utilizes “tú” for the second-person singular, which is considered the standard form. This illustrates the influence of the ‘old Spanish language’ from Spain in Latin America, persisting since the 16th century but eventually evolving to “tú” over the centuries.Voseo is seldom formally taught to Spanish learners, and its specific usage varies across regions. Countries such as Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay still use “vos” instead of “tú.” Nevertheless, people worldwide will understand whether you use “tú” or “vos.”
     
  • Vosotros/Ustedes: Latin American variations of Spanish omit vosotros (you, plural, informal), favoring the formal ustedes. Learners in Spain need to memorize an additional verb ending. In Spain, the informal plural version of “you” is “vosotros,” while the formal singular and plural forms are “usted/ustedes.”In Latin America, “vosotros” is not used; instead, “ustedes” is employed (a term reserved for formal “you” in Spain). So, if you’re learning Spanish from Spain, you must study the unique conjugations of “vosotros.” If this is difficult for you, you can consider to consistently opt for the “ustedes” form, and at worst, people in Spain might perceive you as more formal.
     
  • Past Tense: Latin Americans commonly use the preterito indefinido (simple past) tense more frequently than Spaniards. While someone in Spain might say “he ido al cine” (I went to the cinema) when referring to an event earlier today, someone in Latin America would use the preterito indefinido (“fui al cine”).In Spain, this tense is employed when there is no connection with the present. In Latin America, this distinction doesn’t exist, making it suitable even for actions that occurred just moments ago (“hoy fui al cine” / “I went to the cinema today”).

What are the key Pronunciation Differences:

A notable distinction in pronunciation between Spanish in Spain and Latin America lies in the pronunciation of the letters Z and C (before I or E). In Latin America, these letters are pronounced as S, while in Spain, a TH sound is heard.

Latin American Spanish

Choosing Between Spain and Latin America:

To grasp the distinctions between Castilian and Latin American Spanish, compare it to an American conversing in English with a Brit, Irish, or Australian. While differences exist, they are not substantial. Some argue that Colombian, Peruvian, or Mexican Spanish is exceptionally clear and the best, while others find Argentinian Spanish to be the most beautiful.

Considering that Latin America has more Spanish speakers, it might be viewed as the most practical to learn. Conversely, some believe that Spanish from Spain holds significance as the home of the Real Academia Española, which governs the language.

However, the decision between Spain Spanish and Latin American Spanish should rather revolve around your travel preferences, the type of adventure you seek, and, of course, your budget. Regardless of the variant you learn, you’ll be understood throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

What is the best country for a Spanish immersion program?

Therefore it is hard to answer the question: what is the best country for a Spanish immersion program? Determining the best country for a Spanish immersion program depends on various factors, including personal preferences, goals, and the type of experience you’re seeking. Here are a few considerations to help you decide:

Learn Spanish in Spain:
Study Spanish in Spain if you want to study in Europe to learn European Spanish, Spain is an excellent choice. You can immerse yourself in the culture, explore historical cities, and experience the vibrancy of Spanish life. Cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville offer unique dialects and cultural nuances. In Spain you can enjoy a cosmopolitan nightlife and try tapas and learn to dance flamenco while there are amazing outdoor activities as well and stunning beaches.

Study Spanish in Latin America
Learn Spanish in Latin America if you want to get off the beaten path, explore a new continent, enjoy the outdoors – although there are amazing cities in Latin America with great nightlife and the best cuisine as well. In Latin America you can do volunteer work too and some countries (Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia) are a great choice if y are in a tight budget.

Learn Latin American Spanish

Popular countries in Latin America to study Spanish are;

Mexico:
For those interested in Latin American Spanish, Mexico provides a rich cultural experience. You can explore diverse landscapes, from beaches to mountains, and interact with locals known for their warm hospitality. Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Guadalajara offer distinct regional variations.

Argentina:
If you’re drawn to the melodious sound of the Argentine accent, Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina are great options. The country is known for its passionate culture, tango music and dance, and unique vocabulary and expressions.

Colombia:
Colombia offers a friendly and welcoming environment for language learners. Cities like Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena provide different dialects and accents. The Colombian accent is often considered clear and neutral, making it favorable for learners.

Peru:
If you’re interested in experiencing both historical and modern aspects of Latin America, Peru is a fantastic choice. You can explore ancient ruins, the Amazon rainforest, and immerse yourself in the diverse Spanish spoken in different regions.

Costa Rica:
Known for its eco-friendly initiatives and natural beauty, Costa Rica is a popular destination for Spanish learners. The local accent is clear, and the country’s commitment to environmental sustainability adds an extra dimension to the immersion experience.

21 countries
Did you know that Spanish is spoken as the official language in 21 countries? Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Ultimately, the best country for a Spanish immersion program depends on your personal preferences, interests, and the type of Spanish you want to learn. Consider the cultural aspects, regional accents, and the overall experience each country offers to make an informed decision.

Do you ever worry that the Spanish you learn in one country might not be understood in another?

Or have you learned some Spanish in Spain, only to go to a different Spanish speaking country later on and find yourself struggling to understand? Or vice versa? Don’t worry to much about it. Even though there are differences, all Spanish speaking people can understand each other.

More Varieties of Spanish
Varieties of Spanish across different regions exhibit fascinating nuances, reflecting the rich culture of the Spanish-speaking world. In Mexico, Spanish takes on a distinct character, almost akin to its own dialect, with internal variations that make it truly unique. The Caribbean Spanish is known for its rapid pace, often marked by the omission of certain letters or syllables, particularly S and D at the word endings.

Moving to Central America, the Spanish spoken here is generally standard, sharing similarities with South American Spanish. An interesting feature is the pronunciation of the letter S at the end of syllables, often sounding like an H.

Venturing into South America, we find diverse linguistic landscapes. In central and southern parts of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, Andean Spanish prevails, shaped significantly by the influence of indigenous languages such as Quechua and Aymara, especially notable in Peru and Bolivia.

Argentina stands out with its distinctive Spanish, sharing similarities with Spain Spanish, while neighboring Chile presents its own unique accent and speaking style. Paraguay falls somewhere between the accents of Argentina and Chile, and Uruguay adopts a version closely aligned with Argentine Spanish. Each of these variations adds a unique flavor to the Spanish language, showcasing the cultural richness and diversity embedded in the linguistic fabric of the Spanish-speaking world.

 

Looking for a Spanish Abroad program in Spain or Latin America?

Study Spanish in Latin America
Find here the best Spanish Schools in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Peru and more.

Study Spanish in Spain
Book Spanish lessons in Spain at recommended Spanish Schools in Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Malaga, Cadiz and more.

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