latin-spanish-vs-spanish

Should I Learn Latin American Spanish or Spain Spanish

I have given this question a lot of thought, and I’m afraid I can’t come up with a better answer than:

 “It’ll depend on your needs.”

Simply speaking, if you live in Europe, are planning to travel or move to Spain, your work requires daily contact with Spaniards, or you are dating a lovely Spanish girl / handsome Spanish guy, you should, by all means, focus on that version of the language. 

But if you come from the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, spend your summers in Cancún, love Argentinian steak and Chilean wine, do business with Mexicans or have a Colombian partner, Latin American Spanish sounds like the logical choice.

Now, assuming you have no ties either with Spain or Latin America, my recommendation would be to try and learn the “Latino” version of Spanish. 

Here’s why:

Reasons to Learn Latin American Spanish:

  • it’s easier to pronounce
  • it doesn’t need the “vosotros” form
  • it’s more widely used, which gives you more opportunities to practice
  • it’s the one you’ll hear more in songs

Let me explain in more detail these four reasons. 

Latin Spanish is Easier to Pronounce than Spain Spanish

There is no doubt that Spain is the cradle of “Castellano” – another name for the Spanish language. The way Spaniards speak is considered the most correct and pure, yet it is also the most difficult to imitate. 

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The most challenging sound is the one produced by the letter “z,” “c + e,” and “c + i” like in the following words:

  • una cerveza a beer
  • una cesta a basket
  • cocecha harvest
  • una cocina a kitchen
  • un cigarillo a cigarette
  • despacio slowly
  • una taza a cup
  • una zanahoria – a carrot
  • cazar – to hunt

While in Spain, all these letters marked in red sound like “θ” (phonetic symbol for “th”), in Latin America, they are simply pronounced as “s.” 

Try saying “cerveza” in either way and see which one makes your tongue twist more. 

Latin American Spanish Does Not Use “Vosotros”

If you are an absolute beginner in Spanish, you probably don’t know very well what I mean. 

Vosotros” is a subject pronoun that is equivalent to the plural “you.” It is used in Spain to address a group of at least two people, who you are on friendly and informal terms with:

🇪🇸 Vosotros (Juan y María) teneís una casa muy bonita.
🇬🇧 You (Juan and Maria) have a very pretty house.

🇪🇸 Carla, Francisca, ¿Qué haría yo sin vosotros?
🇬🇧 Carla, Francisca, what would I do without you?

When you learn verb conjugation according to Spain’s rules, you have to include the “vosotros” form in your list. 

Here’s how you’d conjugate the verb “SER” – “TO BE.” 

yo soy
tú eres
él es
ella es
usted es
nosotros somos
vosotros sois
ellos son
ellas son
ustedes son
I am
you (singular) are
he is
she is
you (formal) are
we are
you (plural) are
they (masculine) are
they (feminine) are
you (plural formal) are

See? 10 different subject pronouns and their corresponding verb forms.

In Latin America, however, “vosotros” is not used. It gets replaced with “USTEDES,” which means you’ll have one verb form LESS to learn. 

How does USTEDES work in Latin America? 

It can be used both in a formal context (like in Spain) and in an informal one (referring to friends, family members, or even children). 

Have a look:

Spain: ¿Están (ustedes) listos para pedir? – formal
Latin America: ¿Están (ustedes) listos para pedir? – formal
Are you ready to order? – (addressing 2+ people)

Spain: Carlitos y Pepe, ¡vengaís (vosotros) a comer! – informal
Latin America: Carlitos y Pepe, vengan (ustedes) a comer! – informal
Carlitos and Pepe, come to eat!

Spain: ¿Qué estaís (vosotros) haciendo, niños? – informal
Latin America: ¿Qué están (ustedes) haciendo, niños? – informal
What are you doing, kids?

In summary, if you choose to study Latin American Spanish, you’ll have a little less grammar to work with. 

Most Spanish Speaking Countries Are in Latin America

I’m not sure if you know, but Spanish is spoken in 21 different countries, 19 of which are in Latin America. The other two are Spain (in Europe) and Equatorial Guinea (in Africa). 

These numbers speak for themselves. There simply are more people who use the Latin American version of Spanish.

I need to clarify one thing, though.

Latin American Spanish is NOT a single language. Each country of that continent has developed its own version characterized by a distinctive accent and melody, colloquial expressions, and slang

The Argentinean Spanish is quite different from the Chilean one, even though they share a border. 

Caribbean Spanish struggles to pronounce the “R” letter. 

Mexicans are famous for their “güey” (man) and “¡no manches!” (no way!)

Colombians are considered to speak the clearest and pronounce the best.

There is simply no Latin American country that speaks exactly the same as another. 

Does it mean you won’t be able to communicate across the continent? 

Not at all. It is still the same language. 

The differences only make the communication more colorful and occasionally lead to small and funny misunderstandings when a certain word means one thing in one country and something else in another. 

Latin American Culture is Gaining Popularity All Over the World

Have you heard of Shakira, Ricky Martin, Luis Fonsi, Carlos Santana, or Juanes? These are some of the most influential Latin American singers whose songs are international billboard hits. 

Perhaps you don’t know, but learning Spanish through songs is great for vocabulary building and practicing listening comprehension skills. I highly recommend it. 

Are you a book-worm? Reading is also an excellent way to improve your Spanish. Latin America has many outstanding novelists and poets you can choose from: Mario Vargas Llosa, Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, or Pablo Neruda, just to name a few.

***

I’ve learned my Spanish in Chile, and this is obviously the most natural version of the language for me. I have met Spanish speakers of diverse origins throughout my life, and I never had any communication problems. 

Given the popularity of this language and its usefulness for business and travel, it is always a great idea to learn it, no matter what version you pick. 

Instead of asking yourself: “should I learn Latin American Spanish or Spain Spanish” focus on all the fantastic things you’ll be able to do once you speak it well enough: travel, make new friends, learn about new cultures, taste new food. 

Remember this: Knowing a second language opens your mind, and it also opens many doors for you in life. 

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Joanna Lupa
Joanna Lupa
Polish by birth, Chilean by the turns of life. Has spent 20 years in that beautiful South American country working as a language teacher and translator. Has taught Spanish and English to students of all proficiency levels. Passionate about languages, books, and traveling. A mother of 2 trilingual teenagers.

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