Sunday, 17 April 2011

European vs. Latin American Spanish

One of the challenges of learning Spanish is that there are so many different variations in different regions. I have learnt a lot of the Spanish spoken in Spain, as I live in Andorra during the wintertime, two miles from the Spanish border. I also spent three months in Bariloche in Argentina, where the Spanish is quite different. Many of my colleagues in the ski school in Andorra are from Argentina and a few are from Chile, so I hear different styles of Spanish spoken on a daily basis, along with Catalan and a bit of French. This makes life interesting but potentially confusing as well, and I find my own pronunciation jumps between Castillian and Argentinian quite regularly - probably not a good thing.

Cerveza - good for practising your pronunciation
Althought the pronuncuation is the most immediate difference between European and Latin American Spanish, there are significant differences in vocabulary and grammar as well. In fact our ski school recently put a notice on the wall in four languages - English, Catalan, Spanish, and Argentinian. This was a little tongue in cheek but does illustrate that there are differences.

The biggest grammatical difference is that in Spain 'vosotros' is used for the second person familiar plural, whereas in Latin America 'ustedes' is used.

The biggest difference in pronunciation I think is the Castillian lisp, widespread in Spain but not seen in Latin America. This means that the soft 'c' and the 'z' in Spain are pronounced with a hard 'th' sound, like the 'th' in thought. In Latin America these letters are pronounced exactly like the 's' which is always a hard 's' sound like the 'c' in voice.

So cerveza (beer) is pronounced ther-vay-tha in Spain but ser-vay-sa in Latin American Spanish.

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