European or Latin Spanish?

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By Lucía Rodríguez

Lee este artículo en español.

Do European Spanish and Latin Spanish differ? Although each country has language peculiarities, accents, and slams,  Spanish speakers will understand each other easily. 

It is the same case when an American, a Briton, or an Australian talks. They can understand each other.  It is English.

In Latin America, the language came from the Spanish colonizers.  That is why it is called Spanish. In Spain, because the language was born in Castilia, it is usually called Castilian.

That said, there are quite a few differences between European Spanish and Latin Spanish, and here you have the most remarkable:

Pronunciation

Pronunciation varies the most from one country to another, even from a region to another. We can find many examples of that  in Spain, where depending on the region ( Galicia, Andalucía, Cataluña ) Spanish pronunciation sounds totally different.

In some countries in Central America, the “s” is deaf or inhaled, and sometimes any other  syllable is eaten. In Argentina and Uruguay,  pronunciation of “y” and the double “l” is strident  — a peculiarity called  “yeísmo”.

Perhaps the most obvious difference between Spanish and Latin pronunciation is the misnamed “lisp” (ceceo), common in most of the Iberian Peninsula. Some say that this pronunciation came from King Ferdinand III, whose lisp (ceceo) was copied by the Spanish nobility. But this legend may be uncertain. This pronunciation is more likely to come from medieval Castilian Spanish, although that does not explain why it did not reach the colonies.  It is  the language evolving. An organic and  illogical  process of acquiring and deleting structures and vocabulary during time.

What is sure is that you will inevitably get the accent of the place where you study Spanish, but this will not impede speaking with Hispanics (or Spaniards) from all over the world.

None accent  is better or worse than another. It becomes one more personal facet. Also, remember: “exotic” accents are a great conversation piece to break the ice with when you’re on the go

Ustedes

In the varieties of Latin American Spanish, the pronoun vosotros is not used for the second person plural, but ustedes.

For example, in Spain you can ask your friends “vosotros vais a la fiesta?” But many people would opt for the more formal alternative to address older people “Ustedes van a la fiesta?” . In Latin America, the formal variant is always used, regardless of the context.

Ustedes are also used in the Canary Islands; vosotros are only used in the Balearic Islands and mainland Spain. Of course, if you speak Latin Spanish, they will understand you perfectly in Spain … and you probably seem very polite to them!

Voseo

The colonists brought the language to the Spanish colonies. It means, the Spanish spoke in their country at that time. Also, they brought other elements from their local dialects. Colonial Spanish began to evolve since communication with Spain was very limited. Some elements of old Spanish were kept; others did not. One of the clearest examples of this evolution is the use of vos (tú), mainly in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Originally, vos(tú) was used for the second person plural, but it ended up being used — even among close friends — as a more formal variant of the second person singular. Its use was widespread in Spain when the colonists brought the language to the American Southern Cone. However, it ended up disappearing in Europe and assimilating into South American countries.

Both the pronoun and its corresponding conjugation— seems to be gaining ground in some parts of Latin America where its use had been a minority until now, such as Bolivia, Chile, Nicaragua, or Costa Rica. Of course, we guarantee that people will understand you perfectly, wherever you go, regardless of whether you use vos or tú.

Vos sos un gran amigo.

Vocabulary

Vocabulary is probably the most remarkable difference between Spanish speaking countries. Yes, try to find the definition of PopCorn and you will find uncountables. It is totally expected because Spanish is a language with more than 420 million speakers  on the five continents. This enormous extension for centuries means that in different regions a different Spanish lexicon is used, due to the fact that different preferences have been developed regarding the use of vocabulary.

Of course there are global definitions and you don’t need to know every regionalistic word, unless you are living there. In this case the process of vocabulary acquisition is  due on a daily basis and becomes natural.

Wherever you decide to study, you will study Spanish. Let’s focus on what joins and not what separates us. Take advantage and enjoy the differences of the region, not only about the language learning, but the cultural experience.

If something could define our times it is to expand communication. Today we don’t have barriers, we can work and learn all over the world.

Enjoy it!

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