The world of spanish – variations of the laguage

by | Feb 2, 2024

Spanish is the official language spoken by almost 500 million people in 21 countries. Do all of them share the same Spanish? Do they understand each other? No, and yes.

There are regional variations of the language, although Spanish speakers understand each other without problems.
Similarly to an American English speaker who understands what an Australian or a British speaker says, Spanish speakers communicate effectively with some exceptions about idioms or colloquial local expressions.
The main differences within Spanish spoken across the
regions include using extra pronouns, verb conjugations, distinct pronunciation of some consonants, rhythm, and
intonation. Those features identify where the speaker is from. These are the main differences within this beautiful language:

European Spanish, spoken in Spain (and Equatorial Guinea) and learned by second language students in Europe, presents the use of a special pronoun to address a group of people: vosotros (you plural) that comes with its own form of verb conjugation. Another difference is the pronunciation of the consonant Z and the combinations Ce/Ci, with a sound similar to th (as in thin), particular to this region. However, since Spanish is not the only language spoken in Spain, there are variations within the country. For example, the Spanish spoken in Madrid is significantly different in Andalucia regarding pronunciation.

Latin American Spanish, spoken in 19 countries, is very diverse. Therefore, there are many variations of the language,
as follows:

  • Mexican Spanish, with its unique vocabulary and pronunciation, is the Spanish most spoken in the USA, especially in Texas, California, and towns close to the border. Mexican Spanish has influence from indigenous languages such as Nahuatl.
  • Central American Spanish, as in Mexico, the language spoken in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, exhibits influences from indigenous culture. Therefore, differences in pronunciation exist. A feature that confuses many Spanish learners is the use of different pronouns when addressing a person directly: (you-informal), usted (you-formal), and in Central America, another one: vos (you-informal). Depending on how close the relationship between the speakers is, these three pronouns apply (each has its form of verb conjugation). This feature is called voseo.
  • Caribbean Spanish, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Dominican Republic Spanish speakers are easily identifiable by their dropping of the final syllable or consonant, as well as their rhythm and intonation. These are also characteristics of the Spanish spoken in the Canary Islands.
  • South American Spanish, as diverse as this region is, the variations of the language are enriched by indigenous languages and immigration as well. There are three main identifiable groups:
    • Colombian Spanish, depending on the region, people speak the “standard” Spanish (Bogota), Spanish with Caribbean influence (Cartagena), or Paisa Spanish (Medellin). Paisa speakers also use a third pronoun vos when speaking informally to a person (voseo), and some also alternate with the term su merced when talking to a loved one.
    • Peruvian and Equatorian Spanish, with their rich culture and pre-Hispanic origins, as well as a diverse geography, these countries share variations in the use of the language according to their regions.“Standard” Spanish is spoken in Lima and Guayaquil, for example, while Andean Spanish and Amazonic Spanish present influence by indigenous languages like Quechua. They do not use voseo, which marks a main difference from other South American Spanish speakers.
    • Argentinian and Uruguayan Spanish, in this region (La Plata River area) they speak a particular variation of Spanish, greatly influenced by Italian immigration. Here, voseo is standard, so vos is the preferred informal pronoun (you). Another significant feature is the pronunciation of the consonants “y”, “ll” and “g” very close to the sound of “sh” in English. This specific point undoubtedly identifies a person from this region among other Spanish speakers.

Besides these big groups, we should consider the Spanish variations spoken by a reduced -but not less significant-
number of people, like Chileans (with a mixed pronunciation of Andean and Argentinian Spanish) and Equatorian
Guineans who are the only Spanish speakers in Africa, and speak European Spanish with a particular intonation as a
result of the influence of the other 12 languages spoken in the country.

As we can see, there are multiple variations of this beautiful language. However, because the core grammar and vocabulary remain consistent across the different regions, Spanish speakers can understand each other clearly and effectively.

At Be Bilingual, we provide Spanish instruction focusing on Standard Spanish spoken in North America. We personalize
our classes according to the linguistic needs of our clients who want to do business, study, travel, and communicate effectively with Spanish speakers of specific regions.

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