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Culture: Regional Variations in Spanish

by Brandi

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June 22nd, 2009

Just a few weeks ago, one of our newsletter subscribers asked me to address the differences between Spanish in Latin America and Spanish in Spain. This week, I will discuss a little bit about those differences as well as a few regional word differences from Central America to South America and so on.

Lots of people think that Spanish in Spain and Spanish in Latin America are completely different. The truth is that people from each region have different accents and there are a few basic language differences, but they can usually understand each other without a problem.
A major differences is that in Spain, they use a word for “you” called “vosotros”. In Latin America, they know of the word “vosotros”, but they don’t use it in everyday conversation. There are three ways to say “you” in Spanish (we will talk more in-depth about this concept next week.) To keep it short, “vosotros” is used when you are conversing with more than one person in an informal way. Such as, you would use “vosotros” in Spain when talking to people younger than yourself, to a few friends, or those you are on a first-name basis with.

Once again, Latin America doesn’t use “vosotros,” however, in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay (South America), they use a form of “vosotros” called “vos”. Basically this is a very casual way to say “you”.

Except for the differences in the accent, the use of “vosotros” and “vos” is one of the main difference in the Spanish language from region to region.

Now to change our theme just a little, there are also a few differences in vocabulary from region to region. If you learn with a Spanish course like ours, the vocabulary you learn is almost always used internationally. There are a few minor differences in vocabulary that are fun to know about. I will share some of them in the next couple of paragraphs.

The word for “soda” in Perú is “gaseosa”, but in the Dominican Republic it’s “refresco”. “Refresco” in Perú means “punch” or “sweetened drink”.

The word for “cake” in some regions of South America is “torta”, in the Caribbean it is “biscocho” (which also means “roll” in South America), and in some parts of Central America is “queque” or “biscocho”.

In Spain and Mexico, the word for “bus” is “autobus”, “camión”, and “guagua” in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. But be careful, the word “guagua” in Chile means “baby”. So, if you are from Chile and visit Puerto Rico, don’t ask someone “How’s your guagua?”, because rather than asking “How’s your baby?”, you would really be asking “How’s your bus?”

Moral of the Story: It’s important to know some of the major differences in the Spanish language so you don’t get completely thrown off track if you visit different countries. The minor vocabulary differences are a fun fact to know but not as important to your success in learning the Spanish language.
If any of you have had experiences with regional variations in Spanish, I would love to hear from you.

Sneak peek at next week: This One’s “four” you.

¡Hasta la próxima semana! (Until Next Week!)
David S. Clark — President / Director

Click here to learn Spanish.

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