How Is Spanish In Spain Different From Spanish In Latin America?

Is the Spanish spoken across Latin America significantly different from the Spanish spoken in Spain? Does it change from country to country? We consulted native Spanish speakers from six Spanish-speaking countries to find out.
March 23, 2016

You know what happens after colonization? A linguistic hot mess (but that can be a good thing!). So let’s get complicated and delve into the differences between the varieties of Spanish spoken in Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Argentina.

Accent And Pronunciation

You might think Spanish sounds the same and is spoken the same way everywhere — but there are several differences. In Spain, “z” usually sounds like “th”; the same goes for a “c” when it comes before an “e” or an “i”. In Latin America, “z” sounds like an “s”, and so does “c” before an “e” or “i.”

And what do the fine people in the Caribbean and parts of southern Spain do to the letter R! They kick it to the curb and turn it into an L!

In parts of Argentina and Uruguay, the “ll” in words like llamar, lloro and lluvia is not pronounced like an English “Y” (like in Spain and the rest of Latin America), but instead like a “sh.”

Grammar

In the Spanish language there is a marked difference between the informal and the formal usted when addressing someone, with TÚ used almost everywhere. But only in Spain will you find a difference in the plural with the informal vosotros and the formal ustedes. In Latin America only ustedes is used.

In Spain

¿Vosotros tenéis ganas de salir?

(Do you want to go out?)

In Latin America

¿Ustedes tienen ganas de salir?

(Do you want to go out?)

The different continents also use different past tenses.

In Spain

Hoy no he desayunado.

(I haven’t eaten breakfast today.)

In Latin America

Hoy no desayuné.

(I didn’t eat breakfast today.)

Greetings

But the differences are not only linguistic. When you greet people in different countries, learn the local customs! Don’t get into a confrontation by accidentally disrespecting someone.

In Spain
Women: greet everyone with a kiss on either cheek.
Men: greet women with a kiss on either cheek, and greet other men with a handshake.

In Mexico and Colombia
Women: greet everyone with one kiss on the cheek.
Men: greet women with one kiss on the cheek, and give men a handshake.

In Argentina
Both men and women greet with one kiss on the cheek.

Vocabulary

Depending on which country you find yourself in, you will be confronted with different names for the same

Objects….

“Bus”

Spain = autobús

Colombia = bus

México = camión

Puerto Rico & D.R. = guagua

Argentina = colectivo

“Pen”

Spain = bolígrafo or just “boli”

Mexico = pluma

Colombia = esfero

Argentina = lapicera

“Apartment”

Spain = piso

Latin America = departamento or apartamento

“Cell Phone”

Spain = móvil

Latin America = celular

“Computer”

Spain = ordenador

Latin America = computadora or computador

Situations…

“To have a hangover”

Spain = tener resaca

Mexico = tener cruda

Colombia = tener guayabo

Chile = tener caña

And ways of expressing oneself:

“That’s cool”

Spain = esto mola

Mexico = está chido

Dominican Republic = eto tá

Puerto Rico = está chévere

Colombia = está bacano

Whether you want to learn Spanish in order to speak it in Spain or in the Americas, you can start learning it right now.
Author Headshot
Nuno Marques
Nuno is a puppeteer and scriptwriter who spends his time twiddling his thumbs inside and outside puppets' heads. He enjoys daydreaming, biking in Berlin and opera. Some of his best friends are made of felt and foam!
Nuno is a puppeteer and scriptwriter who spends his time twiddling his thumbs inside and outside puppets' heads. He enjoys daydreaming, biking in Berlin and opera. Some of his best friends are made of felt and foam!

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