Different Types of Spanish
Different Types of Spanish
Spanish has the second largest number of native speakers in the world, and is the official language in over twenty countries. A distinction is often made between the Spanish spoken in Latin America and the Spanish spoken in Spain, but the truth is that there are subtle differences in all the Spanish-speaking countries, as opposed to two distinct forms of the language. Even within Spain, there are differences from region to region, but this isn’t any reason for Spanish students to worry. The different forms of Spanish are mutually intelligible, and someone speaking Latin American Spanish can easily be understood in Spain, and vice versa.
Spanish originally evolved from a variety of different languages on the Iberian peninsula. Its root language was Latin, but it was also influenced by ancient languages such as Basque, and borrowed from neighbouring Romance languages and Arabic. Spain was originally divided into separate kingdoms, and each kingdom spoke its own Romance language. In the Kingdom of Aragon, for example, people spoke Arogonese, while in Leon they spoke Leonese and in Catalonia they spoke Catalan. Today, these languages have been largely absorbed by the Spanish language, but they still have small numbers of native speakers in different Spanish provinces, and have contributed to differences in dialect between the various regions of Spain.
Perhaps the most famous distinguishing mark of Spanish from Spain is the Castilian lisp, or the pronunciation of the letter ‘z,’ and in some cases the letter ‘c,’ as ‘th.’ In reality, this pronunciation is only prevalent in the north of Spain, whereas in Andalusia and other southern provinces, the spoken Spanish is similar to that of Latin America.
The most important grammatical difference between different varieties of Spanish is the use of the voseo form for second-person pronouns. In English we have only one second-person pronoun, the word ‘you,’ and it can be plural or singular. In Spanish, second-person pronouns change depending on whether they are plural or singular, and there are also different forms for formal and informal situations. Almost every variety of Spanish distinguishes between the informal ‘tu,’ and the formal, or polite, ‘usted.’ However, in Spain there are two second-person plural pronouns, the informal, ‘vosotros‘ and the formal ‘ustedes,’ while in Latin America, ‘ustedes‘ is used in both situations. A person from Spain would refer to a group of their friends as ‘vosotros,’ while a person from Latin America would refer to a group of their friends as ‘ustedes.’ In addition, many people in Central America, as well as South American countries such as Argentina, use the singular form of ‘vosotros,’ ‘vos‘ as a familiar in place of ‘tu.’ This usage is almost completely unknown in Spain and countries such as Mexico.
The voseo and tuteo forms are the only major grammatical difference between varieties of Spanish, but there are many colloquial differences from country to country. Mexican Spanish is influenced by English, as can be seen in the use of words such as ‘carro‘ (car) and ‘computadora‘ (computer). In some other parts of Latin America, as well as Spain, ‘coche‘ and ‘ordenador‘ are more likely to be used. Some words, such as ‘pinche‘ (kitchen worker) have a harmless connotation in Spain, but are vulgarities in Mexico. For this reason, it’s best to avoid colloquialisms when travelling. If you use more formal Spanish, you will avoid making faux pas, and will be easily understood no matter what country you visit.