Spain Spanish vs Latin America Spanish: How Different Are They?
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How big of a difference is there, really, between the Spain Spanish vs Latin America Spanish? What about between countries in Latin America, like Mexico vs Colombia or Chile vs Venezuela?
I’m constantly asked this.
The reality is, the differences get completely blown out of proportion.
So in this post, I thought I’d set the record straight.
The Native Speaker Test
Just like if an American went to Ireland. Yea, the accent could be a bit different, and they might use different slang sometimes, and maybe they even have different words for a few things. But that’s it.
Put that in comparison to Portuguese, for instance. Brazilian and Peninsular Portuguese are quite different, to the point where a Brazilian can go to Portugal and have a hard time communicating.
I was just in Portugal and met a ton of Brazilians who told me it took them anywhere from a year to a year and a half to adjust, and emphatically told me how hard of a transition it was for them – as native speakers. In Portugal, there is a completely different accent, including several extra vowels, and twice as much grammar, on top of all the slang differences.
But that’s not the case with Spanish.
So what is different, then? Because they clearly aren’t the exact same.
Differences Between Spain Spanish vs Latin America Spanish
The main differences, between any country (and often, regions of one country) are:
Accent and Pronunciation
You can get a different accent but this usually isn’t an issue. Frankly, the costeño accent from Colombia is more difficult than the one from Spain, assuming you learned in inland Colombia. If you speak good Spanish “from” one place, you usually won’t have any issues here beyond the issues you’d have with a similarly different accent in your native language.
Will the different accent sound “weird?” Yea, it will. But it’s the same level of weirdness an Australian would get talking to a Brit or someone from Texas.
Yea, the slang will be different. This is just new vocab you’d need to learn and that’s it. But it’s the same in English – the slang in Leeds in the UK is definitely different from LA in the States.
Some common words are different
Occasionally some words are different, but this isn’t too common and there are a very limited number of differences – like “carro” in Latin America vs “coche” in Spain. Again, this happens in English too, like “trash can” vs “bin.”
In Spain, one extra pronoun and accompanying conjugations
Spain has one extra pronoun not used in Latin American Spanish, vosotros, and thus all the extra conjugations that go along with that. But, you don’t even need to use it. Just learn how it works (which will take you 30 minutes to learn the regular conjugation and common irregulars, tops) and then you’re good to go.
I didn’t even bother to do THAT, and I was just fine anyway – and I’ve driven all over Spain and never had an issue having full-speed conversations with anyone.
This isn’t all to say that Spanish is the exact same everywhere. Just, the differences are blown out of proportion, and come down to slang, accent, and some common words being different – just like English in different areas.
So if you are learning Spanish, by all means – learn the Spanish specific to the place you want to go, so you are used to the accent and slang. But if the resources you have available to you offer Venezuelan Spanish for instance, like here at BaseLang, and you are going to Argentina or Spain – it’s not a big deal.
If you get good at Spanish from one place, Spanish in another place won’t present an issue.