If you’re an English speaker, you can easily make your way throughout Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, where English is the native language. However, along your journey, you may struggle to understand a few words here and there due to distinct accent differences. Or, you may notice that certain spellings or phrases are different than the ones you are used to back home. This is much the same for those who speak Spanish. The differences between Latin American and Castilian Spanish won’t prevent two people from communicating, but there are noticeable differences in pronunciation, verb conjugations, and even the meanings of similar vocabulary words.
If you are traveling between Latin American and castilian Spanish speaking countries for pleasure, these language variations won’t cause a problem. However, if you are conducting business transactions, you may want to consider using a translator who is well versed in both to ensure you put your most professional foot forward.
What Created the Differences Between Latin American Spanish and Castilian Spanish?
In a nutshell, the differences between these two forms of Spanish were created by the simple matter of distance and time. Language has a way of evolving, and this is especially true as cultures collide and certain expressions, words, or phrases begin to intermingle with other linguistic influences. Castilian Spanish is the traditional Spanish, spoken in the north and central part of Spain. As explorers began to set out and colonize the west, this root of the Spanish language began a slight evolution which has created permanent changes in the way the language is expressed, both in sound and grammar. Even within Latin America there are countless variations of Spanish dialects.
Here are some examples of the differences between Latin American Spanish and castilian Spanish.
One of the most noticeable differences between the two versions of Spanish is the notable “lisp” that occurs when Castilians pronounce the cand the z. In fact, from the linguistic stand point, it isn’t a lisp at all but, rather, a difference in pronunciation. Castilian Spanish uses a th sound when the letters c or z occur before an i or e. So, for example, in Mexico the spoken word for sky, cielo, is pronounced see-eh-low. In countries the use Castilian pronunciation, the same word is pronounced thee-eh-low.
Castilian Spanish speakers use the vos conjugations, rather than the informal tú form used in most Latin American countries. This can get very confusing for Spanish speakers who never used this verb form, but it is relatively easy to catch on to with a bit of practice. Also, in Spain, they often use vosotros for the plural form for tú, whereas Latin Americans usually use the plural ustedes. There are also a variety of small, mostly colloquial differences that are all dependent on what region the speaker is from.
You will find that certain familiar words may not mean exactly the same thing depending on where you are traveling. For example, the word computer is computadora in most Latin American Countries, but it is orenador in Spain. Latin Americans will say manejar (to drive) while Spaniards will most likely say conducir. There are dozens of small differences like these, none of which will get you into trouble, but will require careful attention if you are spending a significant amount of time in a particular location.
Most languages begin to morph as people spread out and integrate with other cultures and languages. However, a little study and practice will overcome these barriers. If necessary, you may want to engage a professional translator for any transactions where 100% accuracy is required.