Differences in Spanish Dialects

Spanish is one of the most commonly-used languages in the world, right behind English and Mandarin Chinese. Today, over 30 countries list Spanish as their main language and it’s estimated that over 400 million people speak Spanish as a first language.

However, if you’re thinking of learning Spanish, you’ll need to think about where you want to use your newfound language skills, as there are several different Spanish dialects. The two major dialects are those used in Mexico and Spain, although other Spanish-speaking countries may have their own variants as well. Many students worry that the differences between the major dialects are so great that studying one is useless if you need to know the other. That’s not the case, but it’s like comparing American and British English. People who can speak Spanish can still converse with others who speak different dialects, although they may need to go slowly!

The differences between the dialects are more common in written Spanish than in the spoken word. However, it’s not so different that you can’t learn these differences if you need to. And while it’s common to think of Latin American Spanish as one common dialect of Spanish, there are actually many subtle differences that occur in the different countries of the Western hemisphere. Fortunately, they aren’t so different that they prevent communication.

Here are a few of the differences you’ll find between Castilian and Mexican Spanish:


There are several specific variations in the sounds of spoken words in Mexican and Castilian Spanish. Castilian Spanish dictates that the “z” and the “c” are pronounced before the “i” or the “e”; however, most Latin Americans pronounce it like an “s”. The sound normally associated with the Spanish letter “ll” and “y” are often pronounced like the “s”, as in the word measure. This is very common in Argentina. You’ll also find that many people will completely drop the “s” sound, while the “j” sounds more like the “ch” sound, as in the word “loch”. The rhythm of the speech is also different between the two dialects.


There are two significant differences here, including the use of “leismo” and “yos” instead of “tu”. “Tu” is the singular form of “you” in Spain, while in Latin America, the word “usted” is normally used instead.


Normally, the differences in vocabulary between these two dialects occur when a suffix is used. In Latin America, a “computadora” is a “computer”, while in Spain it is called an “ordenador”. These differences are very similar to the variations between British and American English, such as a “chip” referring to what Americans would call a “French fry”. If you’re planning to transition between areas that speak different Spanish dialects, you may find it helpful to brush up on your vocabulary before you arrive, so that you don’t unintentionally offend someone!

A Final Note

Even though there are differences between the two dialects, it’s not impossible to be understood or to converse in any of the Spanish-speaking countries if you have a decent knowledge of either Spanish dialect. While you may be somewhat confused initially, it shouldn’t take you long to understand the quirky phrases and words that are common in any country.

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