Millions of people around the globe speak Spanish. However, depending on the location, you may hear different versions of the language: European Spanish, which is spoken in Spain, and Latin American Spanish, which is commonly heard in countries like Mexico, Argentina, and Chile. While both versions sound very similar to one another, there are a few key differences that can help you tell them apart.
The differences are primarily attributed to the ‘Colonial lag,’ a term coined by linguist Albert Marckwardt, which denotes the terminology used in some colonies but is no longer used in its country of origin. The colonial lag is observed in verbiage, accents, grammar, and pronunciation.
So, let’s dive in to see the differences in European Spanish vs. Latin American Spanish.
In European Spanish, many words are pronounced with a distinct ‘th’ sound. This sound is especially prominent for words that start with an ‘s.’ In Latin American Spanish, however, this th-sound is often replaced by a softer ‘s’ or even dropped altogether.
Similarly, there are other subtle differences in pronunciation across both varieties of Spanish. For example, word endings with ‘dades’ (such as ciudades) tend to be pronounced differently in each region: while the s is dropped in most of Latin America, it is often pronounced in Spain.
Voseo-The Use of Second Person in Singular Pronoun
This is the use of the pronoun “vos” instead of “tú,” which is used in Spain. In Latin America, vos can change the meaning of a sentence and indicate familiarity between people. For example, when talking to a friend, you might say “¿Qué hacés vos?” instead of “¿Qué haces tú?”
In addition, certain verb forms are used with voseo in some countries, such as Argentina and Uruguay. For example, the conjugated form of the verb “comer” (to eat) is comés in voseo.
Both Spanish varieties have different words for certain items, including food and everyday objects. For example, a computer in Latin America might be called a computadora while in Spain it would be referred to as an ordenador or portátil.
In Europe, Spanish speakers use the word “coche” to refer to cars. In Latin America, they would use the term “carro” instead. Similarly, Europeans say “comida” when referring to food, while people in Latin America often say “comida casera”.
When talking about money, Europeans usually call it “dinero,” whereas Latin Americans prefer the term “plate”. This distinction also applies to basic items like pencils – Europeans typically say “lapiz” while Latin Americans say “lápiz.”
Likewise, Europeans use the verb “ir al cine” when talking about going to the movies, and Latin Americans use the verb “ir al cine.” As you can see, there are some key differences between Spanish from Europe and Spanish from Latin America. By knowing these distinctions, you can make sure that your conversations are as precise and accurate as possible.
Grammar is integral to learning any language, and Spanish is no different. While European Spanish and Latin American Spanish are both classed as the same language, there are some key differences in their grammar that you should be aware of if you plan on speaking either variant effectively. Here, we explore the five most critical grammatical differences in European Spanish vs. Latin American Spanish.
While both use the same base verbs for all tenses, slight variations depend on your specific variant. For instance, while European Spanish uses “tú” for the second person singular (i.e., “you”), Latin American Spanish often uses the pronoun “vosotros” instead.
While European Spanish has two distinct words for “the”—el and la, Latin American Spanish merges them into one: el/la. Furthermore, Latin American Spanish also includes a third article, lo, which can be used to refer to certain things with a masculine gender (such as people).
Thirdly, there’s a difference in the ways possessives- other than “my” (mine) and “your” (yours), are used in dialect. In Latin American Spanish, these possessives are generally formed by adding an apostrophe and the letter “s” to the end of a noun. In contrast, in European Spanish, they are formed using an apostrophe followed by the article appropriate to that gender.
Verbs of Motion
There is a difference in how verbs of motion (such as “to go”) are used. In Latin American Spanish, these verbs are generally conjugated differently depending on whether you’re referring to going somewhere or coming back from somewhere. In European Spanish, however, this distinction isn’t made; both types of motion use the same verb conjugation.
There’s a distinction between how adjectives are used when talking about people’s physical characteristics. In Latin America, adjectives such as “grande” and “pequeño” are generally used to refer to people, while in Europe, they are usually replaced by words such as “alto” or “bajo.” For example, when referring to a tall person in Latin American Spanish, you would say “grande”; in European Spanish, you might opt for “alto.”
When it comes to syntax, there are three significant differences in European Spanish vs. Latin American Spanish:
One of the main syntax differences is that European Spanish tends to use the personal pronoun “vosotros” while Latin American Spanish typically does not. Vosotros is a plural second-person pronoun, similar to “you all.” The use of this word can vary depending on region and country within Europe.
In both versions of the language, sentences tend to be structured according to subject-verb-object order, but in European Spanish, certain verb conjugations can cause this order to change. For example, when using verbs such as querer (to want) and powder (to be able to), the verb is placed at the beginning of the sentence in European Spanish but not in Latin American Spanish.
In both varieties of Spanish, when verbs are conjugated with a reflexive pronoun, they must agree with the sentence’s subject. However, while European Spanish has only one set form for these reflexive verbs, Latin American Spanish has two forms depending on whether or not there is an object in the sentence.
Overall, many differences between European and Latin American Spanish can help linguists identify which region a particular speaker is from. Knowing how to recognize these subtle nuances can make all the difference when listening and responding appropriately in either language.
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