In our last article, we learnt about the most spoken languages in the world. In this ranking, the second position was occupied by the Spanish language, a part of the Indo-European family, with 405 million native speakers. A frequently asked question is “Do the Spanish speakers speak the same language?”
While they can all understand and speak the same language, the truth is that the Spanish language is not spoken in the same way. When the same language is spoken in different countries, differences appear. Take the English language as an example, how different can be sometimes the English of the UK in comparison with the English of the USA. As we all know, those differences started with colonization. In the 16th century, Spanish colonization brought the language to the Americas, specifically to Mexico, Central America, and western and southern South America. After five centuries of evolution and development the distribution of Spanish speaking countries remains as follows:
With 46.6 million Spanish speakers, this country is the motherland of the Spanish language. At the same time, the Spanish territory is home to a wide variety of co-official languages as Catalan, Basque or Galician and dialects.
Despite the fact Spain is the motherland of the Spanish language, 90% of Spanish speakers are from Latin America. This territory holds more than 418 million Spanish speakers. Let’s go in-depth with some of them:
The country of Mexico has 103 million Spanish speakers. As in Spain, the Mexican Spanish has different accents and varieties in different parts of the country, for both historical and sociological reasons.
- Argentina and Uruguay
Called “Rioplatense Spanish”, it is considered a dialect of the Spanish language that is mainly recognisable for a peculiar use that we will analyse in advance.
- Chile, Colombia, the Caribbean region…
There are also different varieties of the Spanish language in a vast territory as shown in the map. Even the United States of America have cities with its own dialects like New Mexico and Los Angeles.
When it comes to comparing the Spanish language of all these countries, we are going to find a large number of different features, including modes of address (use of ustedes vs vosotros), variations in accent and pronunciation, vocabulary differences, slang and colloquialisms. Let’s see some examples:
In Spain, the use of tú (you) as normal designation and usted as a restricted form to formal occasions is the standard of the language. However, moving to Latin America, we will find that usted is commonly used. In countries like Uruguay, Paraguay or Argentina, there is a special feature called voseo, that is the equivalent of tú (informal) that was a linguistic feature pertaining to the Spanish language of the old Colonies that still remains.
- Tú no lo entiendes. (Spanish from Spain)
- Vos no lo entendés. (Voseo)
- Ceceo Seseo
If you are studying the Spanish language or you heard people from different Spanish speaking countries, you may have noticed that the pronunciation is diverse. Besides the accent, the most distinctive feature is what Spanish grammar calls seseo and ceceo.
- Ceceo: In Spain, many speakers (but not all) pronounce the c which comes before i and e as a /th/ sound. The z, regardless of position, is also pronounced as a /th/ sound. For example gracias (/grathyas/)
- Seseo: In Latin American, Spanish speakers do not produce this sound. This pronunciation is described linguistically as seseo. The same example would sound like /grasyas/.
Let’s compare an identical word (in meaning) in different countries:
- Bus/Coach: Autobús (Spain), bus (Colombia), camión (Mexico), guagua (Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic), colectivo (Argentina).
- Pen: Bolígrafo (Spain), pluma (Mexico), esfero (Colombia), lapicera (Argentina).
- Have a hangover: Tener Resaca (Spain), tener cruda (Mexico), tener guayabo (Colombia), tener caña (Chile).
- It’s cool: Esto mola (Spain), está chido (Mexico), eto tá (Dominican Republic), está chevere (Puerto Rico), está bacano (Colombia).
As shown in the above video, the Spanish language is a rich, interesting and deep language to learn and enjoy.
By Luis Fdez.