Spanish Accents: Choosing a destination

by Anna on Thursday, September 12, 2013

Learn Spanish

As the most spoken language in the western hemisphere and the second most spoken language in world, it comes as no surprise that regional varieties of Spanish vary. It’s important to remember however that no matter which destination you choose to learn Spanish in, speakers from Spain to Mexico to Central and South America will have relatively little difficulty understanding the Spanish you’ve learned. For a rough idea of how different Spanish accents can be, just consider the differences between British and American English; they don’t present much of language barrier and they are kind of cool to hear.

The Spanish Language in Spain

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of Spanish in Spain is what people often describe as a “lisped” pronunciation of the letters “c” and “z”. This misconception stems from the fact that these letters are pronounced like “th” in English. However, the “s” is clearly pronounced like an “s” meaning that the possibility of a lisp is out of the question. Students studying Spanish as a second language in most areas of Spain will also get the chance to master the informal second person plural informal pronoun of vosotros, along with its corresponding conjugations. Another characteristic of Spain is that the informal prounoun tu is used much more frequently than the very formal usted. Spain also boasts various regional accents and dialects, something to keep in mind when choosing the best place to study abroad.

Study Spanish in Latin America

Learning Spanish in Latin America is a popular choice for American students as it is commonly heard within the country. The Spanish spoken here has strength in numbers, encompassing a huge range of countries with a wide range of accents and regional variations.

Spanish was brought to Latin America in the 16th and 17th centuries and has since evolved into what it is today. Spanish spoken in the Americas linguistically bears many features akin to southern Spanish dialects, particularly Andalusia. This is no surprise considering the majority of Spanish colonizers hailed from this region.

In addition to the differences previously mentioned regarding the more intensive use of the formal pronouns and pronunciation of the “c” and “z”, Spanish spoken in Latin America is also marked by having incorporated more Anglicisms (words that stem from English) than their European counterparts. Indigenous languages have also marked the language and the spelling of many Spanish words in Latin America. (Mexico rather than Méjico, for example, which originated from the Nahuatl word Mēxihco). Later in the 19th century, European settlers from other countries made their way to Latin America, each affecting the evolution of the local accent.

Mexico is a popular choice due to its proximity to the US and clear accent, but what about Argentina with their romantic accent marked by the French sounding “je” pronunciation of the “ll”, or the Spanish spoken in Cuba marked by the weak pronunciation of end consonants converting a word like “después” into something that sounds like “despue”….

One thing to keep in mind is that each dialect offers its own textures, subtle cadences, and local slang but a common misconception is that some Spanish varieties are better than others. All varieties are correct and all are different in some ways from the rest. Once you learn Spanish you will have no troubles communicating with other Spanish speakers, regardless of where you choose to study.

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