Varieties of Spanish: One Language with Many Dialects
Did you know that, although English is the most spoken language globally, Spanish has more native speakers and that there are more varieties of Spanish? With around 560 million speakers globally, Spanish is one of the farthest-reaching languages, with speakers as far apart as South America to Africa. Since 21 countries have Spanish as an official language, most linguistics group countries into seven dialects that have notable differences; here are a few examples:
Note: any “→” marks changes used to display how the accent sounds; however, the written form of all words in Spanish is consistent across every accent.
1. Varieties of Spanish: Castilian Spanish
Also known as the Standard European Spanish, Castillian or Castellano is the Spanish found spoken in the streets of Madrid, the capital of Spain. So what makes it so different? Castellano is the dialect that most predominately uses the Vosotros conjugation to refer to the 2nd person plural.
Ex: ¿Qué [vosotros] vais a hacer hoy? → What are you guys going to do today?
Additionally, Castellano is quite famous (almost to the point of mockery) for its pronunciation of the sound found in words like provincia or celebración, which is pronounced with a pronounced lisp; however, they are written the same:
Ex: provincia → provinthia
2. Mexican Varieties of Spanish
While there are many different accents throughout Mexico, the standard accent has become quite famous for its appearance in many famous television shows & its presence in the United States. Mexicans/Mexican-Americans account for more than 60% of all Latinos living in the U.S., making its accent the one most commonly taught in schools.
A Neutral Accent
The accent of Mexican Spanish is often touted to be very neutral. However, the vocabulary is quite distinct in comparison to Latin America. Here are a few famous Mexican-Spanish phrases:
No mames → , No way! You’re kidding me!
¡Qué chido! → How cool!
¿Neta? → Truth? Really?; expresses agreement with the last comment
Güey → dude; bro
Está cañón → it’s hard/difficult (literally, “it’s canon”)
And more infamous of them all: Pedo
Literally meaning fart, pedo can be used in several ways like:
¿Cuál es el pedo? → What’s the problem?
¿Que pedo? → What happened
Buen pedo → friendly
Ni de pedo → , no kidding!
Que mal pedo → that sucks
Ahora es tu pedo → it’s your problem now
3. Caribbean Spanish
If you are a fan of reggaeton & bachata, this accent will sound familiar. Caribbean Spanish, known as Caribeño, is the accent found in the Spanish Speaking countries of the Caribbean, such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and some Caribbean provinces of Colombia & Venezuela. Caribbean Spanish is famous for its incredible speed and tendency to cut off the various letters from the end, and sometimes, the beginning of words, usually s or d sounds:
Ex: Tamo’ bien, no te precupe’, ya lo he escucha’o → Estamos bien, no te
preocupes, ya lo he escuchado
4. Colombian Spanish
Colombian Spanish is famous for two things; having the accent that is considered to be the most neutral; and having the accent that is said to “sound the best,” however these are two distinct accents.
- The Rolo accent of Colombia’s capital Bogotá is the easiest to understand & most neutral accent found in the Spanish- speaking world. The Rolo accent pronounces every sound of each word and rarely drops full pronunciation. The only thing that may confuse a Spanish learner is the use of specific vocabulary such as:
Chevere → cool
Chino → , a young person
Camellar → to work very hard
Parce → informal way to say, dude or friend
The Paisa accent of Medellin (/ the department of Antioquia) is less neutral but the preferred accent of many famous Colombian Telenovelas and the one with the most global presence. The Paisa accent is often said to be the most romantic & “sing-songy” accent, which is the reason many given for the region’s abundance of famous artists like Maluma, J Balvin, Karol G & Sebastián Yatra.
5. Rioplatense Spanish:
Found throughout the markets of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay, Rioplatense Spanish was born from the Río de la Plata river located between the two cities. This accent is famous for its use of sh between the double l sound [ll] and the y sound [y].
Ex: Yo me llamo Sara → Sho me shamo Sara
It is commonly believed that this sound originated from the wave of Italian immigrants to the area, bringing their famous sh sound from the Italian pronunciation of words like cappuccino [cap-oo-chi-no]
Additionally, Argentina and Uruguay are the most predominant members of the Voseo countries, basically, countries that use Vos instead of Tu for the singular, informal pronoun. This also comes with a slight stress difference:
Ex: Tu amas → Vos amás
Explore and Learn New Languages
There are many more exciting accents out there, like the variety of Spanish spoken in Africa or the whistle language of the Canary Islands. Here at LanguageBird, we encourage you to explore and learn about these varieties. You will know a lot more than just how to say a new piece of vocab!