As we all know, speaking Spanish to native speakers can vary quite a bit! You may find yourself listening to different sounds, words and phrases – all depending on the region or country the speaker comes from. Here we break down a few of the main differences between Latin American Spanish and Castilian Spanish. Castilian Spanish or castellano, is the Spanish spoken in mainland Spain, where as Latin American Spanish is classified as Spanish spoken by natives from Mexico in northern central America, all the way down to Argentina in the very south of South America.
The biggest difference here is the pronunciation of the letters Z and C. These two letters are frequently pronounced as ‘S’ in Latin America while in Spain they sound more like ‘Th’.
An example of this is the word abrazo. In Latin American Spanish, it sounds more like abraso where as in Castilian Spanish it would sound more like abratho.
Also in some regions such as Argentina, the letters Y and Ll have a “sh” sound which is very different from their ‘Y’ sound in the Iberian Peninsula. An example of this could be the word lluvia, it would sound as shuvia in Argentina and would be pronounced as yuvia in mainland Spain.
As languages evolve in different geographic areas, the vocabulary usage also evolves with it. This can be confusing for first-time Spanish speakers, as you may have to learn 2 or 3 words for the same thing, just to understand people from different countries!
Some examples are:
CAR = Coche (in Spain) and Carro (in Latin America)
MOBILE PHONE = Móvil (in Spain) and Celular (in Latin America)
PEN = Bolígrafo (in Spain) and Pluma (in Latin America)
And there are so many more! The best thing to do is listen to native speakers on podcasts, news recordings, and even TV shows. Then, when you come across a word you don’t know, look for its meaning in the dictionary and build your own vocabulary.
There’s also a difference in the usage of the past tense. In Castilian, the present perfect tense is very frequently used to talk about the recent past e.g. ‘hoy he ido a clase’ or ‘I went to class today’. It is used often in everyday speech which is very different from Latin American Spanish
In Latin America, they quite often use the simple past tense to talk about their day and what’s happened. Therefore, if we use the same phrase, I went to class today, they would say ‘hoy fui a clase’. Both with the exact same meaning, but simply expressed differently.
That’s a simple breakdown of some of the big differences! If you would like to practice Spanish in one of our group or private Spanish courses, here’s some more information.