Types of Spanish – Are You Learning The Wrong Spanish?
Written by Plexus Radio on 20 April, 2021
Types of Spanish
Learning Spanish is one of the most rewarding and beneficial things you can do with your spare time – just think of the doors it will open to you, both in your career and in your general day to day life – but have you decided which Spanish you are going to learn? In other words, are you aware of the types of Spanish? “What?”, I hear you say, “Isn’t there just one Spanish?”. Actually, no. Let me explain.
There are two main types of Spanish – Castilian (castellano), which is the Spanish spoken in Spain, and Latin American Spanish, which some people refer to as “Espaol”. However, there are also various dialects spoken in Spain and many differences between the Spanish spoken in different parts of Latin America.
So, how do you decide which type of Spanish you should learn? This all depends on your reasons for learning. Are you planning to relocate to or travel to a specific Spanish speaking country or are you wanting to learn Spanish to communicate with the Hispanic community in the US? These are the types of questions you need to be asking yourself.
Before you learn Spanish, you need to decide exactly who you will be speaking Spanish to and in which country.
The Languages of Spain
Spain has four official languages, traditional Spanish (Castellano or Castilian) and:
Catalan – The main language of the Catalonia region of Spain, Andorra and the Balearic Islands.
Basque (or Euskara) – A language spoken in the Basque country (Pais Vasco and Navarra).
Gallego (Galician) – A language spoken in Galicia and some parts of Asturia and Castilla y Leon.
If you are relocating to one of the above areas of Spain, particularly Catalonia, it may actually be best for you to learn the dialect, rather than Castilian Spanish. A friend of mine in Girona, near Barcelona, hardly uses Spanish and her daughter is taught in Catalan at school.
You know how someone from Texas sounds very different to a New Yorker, and a Scot sounds very different to a Geordie (from Newcastle, UK)? Well, it’s the same in Spain.
My children are learning to speak Spanish in a very broad Andaluz (Andalucian) accent, an accent where “d” and “s” are frequently missed out of words. For example, my son might say “se’enta” instead of “sesenta” for “sixty” and locals say “adio” instead of “adios”. These are not huge differences, but it might take some concentration for someone from Madrid to understand it. It is important that you are always aware of “proper” Castilian, particularly if you are learning from someone with a “broad” accent.
There is also a grammatical difference between Latin American Spanish and Castilian. In Spain, “vosotros” is used as the plural of the familiar “t”, meaning “you”, whereas “ustedes” is used in Latin America. This means that if you want to say “you (plural) want” in Spain, you would say “vosotros queris”, but in Latin America you would say “ustedes quieren”.
Just like there are differences in vocabulary between US English and British English, for example “faucet” and “tap”, there are also some differences between Castilian and Latin American Spanish. However, just like Americans understand the British, and the other way around, Latin Americans and Spaniards can communicate without any real problem.
There’s not only differences between Castilian and Latin American Spanish, there are also slight differences between the Spanish spoken in different parts of Latin America, regarding accent, speed, pronunciation and vocabulary. For example:
Cubans often speak quickly and tend to drop syllables.
Mexicans have their own special vocabulary and slang.
Puerto Ricans often replace “d” with “r” and frequently drop the final “s” in words.
There are also various words which are quite innocent in one country, but can be obscene in another country. This is where a good dictionary comes in handy, but people will be forgiving of foreigners and will probably find it funny, rather than offensive.
Although there are all these differences, it is important not to get hung up on them and to panic about the fact that you’ve been learning Latin American Spanish but are now relocating to Madrid! My “Andaluz”children communicate easily with their Venezuelan aunt, so you will be understood wherever you go in the Spanish speaking world is it really the end of the world if you mispronounce something?
By Ericka F.