Comparing the Spanish language and culture in Spain and the Spanish language and culture in Latin America is like comparing British English and American English. The differences between the wording in the two regions are not that extreme. Spaniards can understand the language spoken in Latin American soap operas, and Latin Americans can understand the language used in movies from Spain. However, there are still many differences between the two.
One of these differences is observed in the pronunciation of some phonemes. For example, most Spaniards pronounce the /c/ and /z/ before /i/ or /e/ like the “th” in “thin.” On the other hand, most Latin Americans pronounce this phoneme as /s/. It is still important, though, that this difference is not visible in some parts of Spain, particularly in the southern region.
Aside from the pronunciation of /z/ and /c/ before /i/ or /e/, the Spanish language in Latin America also includes “yeismo,” which means /ll/ and /y/ do not differ in articulation; both of them are pronounced like the “s” in “measure.” This is evident among Latin Americans, especially those living in South America.
There are also some areas in Latin America where people tend to drop the /s/ sound, like “está” sounding like “etá.” However, this is also evident in southern Spain, particularly in Andalusia, Melilla, and Murcia. Some Latin Americans, especially those in Peru, also tend to pronounce /j/ like the “ch” in “loch,” although some Latin Americans in the Caribbean pronounce it as “h.” People in the Caribbean also tend to pronounce /l/ and /r/ similarly. For example, “caldo” may be pronounced as “cardo.” This can also be observed in Equador and Chile.
Another aspect is grammar. It is said that the most prominent differences of the two are using the pronoun “vos” instead of “tú” and “leismo” of Spain. The pronoun “vosotros” and its similar verb forms for the second person plural familiar is more commonly used in Spain than in Latin America. This is its most important feature, although this is not common in the Western Andalusia and Canary Islands. On the other hand, Latin Americans often use “Ustedes” and its verb forms.
The vocabulary in each language is also taken into consideration, particularly the use of suffixes. Although everyone can understand “lápiz” as a pencil or crayons, everyone may not have the same meaning for the word “lapicero.” In some areas, it means “pencil holder,” while others may think it is a ball pencil or a mechanical pen.
Latin Americans may not understand that the meaning of “computadora” in their region and that of “ordernador” in Spain are the same (Both mean “computer.”). The word “chifa” may refer to a Chinese restaurant in Chile or Peru, but this is not heard of in Spain. Compared to the Spanish language in Spain, the Spanish language and culture in Latin America also include many words borrowed from English, called Anglicisms, simply because of its more substantial influence from the US than Europe.
The difference between Spain Spanish and Latin American Spanish can be divided in three parts.
- Old and New: When the Spanish settlements were established, Spanish invaders brought with them the language spoken in Spain and portions of their local dialects. The Spanish spoken in the communities then started to grow in somewhat different directions, as there was limited communication with Spain; some parts of older Spanish were kept, others removed.
- Vocabulary: The differences in vocabulary are no greater than those between American and British English. We explored that in the article above.
- Pronunciation: The most noticeable difference between pronunciation in Latin America and Spain is the “lisp.” In many parts of South/Central America, s isn’t always pronounced and some other syllables are just not used.