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The difference between Spain Spanish and Latin Spanish

Would you like to know the difference between Spain Spanish and Latin Spanish? I can help you with that!

Finally, you have decided to learn Spanish. That’s great! But which one should you choose?

In Argentina, and I’m pretty sure that in most of Latin America, we are taught British English in high school.

So one day I asked my teacher what the difference between British and American English was. She answered: ‘What is the difference between Spanish from Spain and ours?’

Yes, it’s the same language! And although there are some differences, we understand each other just fine.

You only need to learn them, and that’s what we are here for today!

The difference between Spain Spanish and Latin Spanish

Studying one or the other usually depends on the proximity to a Spanish speaking area.

Somebody from Europe may want to learn Spanish from Spain, while somebody from North America might choose Latin American Spanish instead.

But in the end, it’s just a matter of personal choice based on your likes, interests, goals or needs.

However, we shouldn’t forget that Spain is a country big enough with different linguistic areas, therefore there’s more than just one accent. And Latin America as a region occupies 60% of an entire continent!

So when we talk about Spain Spanish and Latin Spanish we refer to standard accents.

Having clarified that, let’s get started!

1) Accent and pronunciation

The main feature of the standard Spain Spanish accent is the distinction between the s and the z.

Most Spaniards pronounce the z like ‘th’ in English, as in ‘theater’, and the same goes for a c before an e or an i. So words such as zapato, zona, cerro and cigarrillo sound exactly the same.

On the other hand, in Latin America we don’t distinguish both sounds: the z always sounds like it was an s.

Actually there are historical reasons behind!

In the region of Andalucia, south of Spain, people don’t distinguish them either. And precisely, most of the Spaniards that came to the Americas during the colonization process were andaluces!

You can see it better on this map.

2) Vosotros vs. ustedes

The predominant second person plural form in Spain is vosotros, but no one in Latin America use it.

We use ustedes instead and, of course, each personal pronoun is conjugated differently.

For example: ustedes aman / comen / escriben vs. vosotros amais / comeis / escribís

The direct and indirect object pronouns change too: os instead of los/las and les.

For example: Les voy a enseñar la diferencia vs. Os voy a enseñar la diferencia

Ustedes has always the same conjugation as the third person plural form: ustedes/ellos aman, comen, escriben. Two birds with one stone!

For some reason, in Latin America we learn how to conjugate vosotros in primary school and we need to memorize it to pass our Spanish language class.

So Latinos have a mix of knowledge and intuition when it comes to conjugating the form, but our attempts are rarely 100% accurate.

The good news is that the second person singular is shared by both dialects. One less problem!

However, in certain regions of Latin America, people use vos instead of . Among them, me with my beautiful Argentine accent!

You can read Vos in Spanish: what it is and how to use it for further information!

Spain's flag waving in the sky - difference between Spain Spanish and Latin Spanish
¡Vosotros hablais un español diferente, amigos latinos, pero os entiendo bien!

3) Present perfect vs. preterite

When talking about past actions that are connected to the present, Spaniards use present perfect. For example: esta mañana he tomado café.

On the other hand, although Latinos do use present perfect too, it’s more common in written Spanish.

In everyday conversation we would express the idea above with simple past: esta mañana tomé café.

It doesn’t matter if five minutes have passed, or five hours, five days or years.

The same applies when we talk about the past without mentioning an specific time.

For example: He viajado a Asia muchas veces (Spain) / Viajé a Asia muchas veces (LatAm)

Curiously, as far as I know, it’s just the same between British and North American English. We like it simple in the New World, haha!

Since we are here, if you struggle with the contrast between past tenses in Spanish, you might be interested in reading this article about when to use preterite and when to use imperfect.

Let’s continue with the differences in vocabulary now!

4) Spanish from Spain vs. Latin America: vocabulary

The main difference between European Spanish and Latin Spanish is vocabulary!

But just as it happens with English, we are familiar with those words that vary crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

This is a list with some of the most common ones:

Spain / Latin America

autobús / bus, colectivo (bus)

bolígrafo / pluma, lapicera (pen)

coche / auto, carro (car)

coger / agarrar (to take, to catch)

móvil / celular (cell phone)

ordenador / computadora (computer)

patata / papa (potato)

piso / apartamento, departamento (apartment)

Coger / agarrar: be careful!

Although we know what Spaniards mean when they say it, coger has a different meaning in Latin America!

Coger is a vulgar word that means ‘to have sexual relations with someone’.

You can check the definition number 32 of coger in the Diccionario de la Lengua Española.

So if you said something like voy a coger el autobús, Latinos inevitably may laugh at you. But don’t worry, it’s only their dirty minds!

Anyways, if you want to be safe and avoid potentially embarrassing situations, always use agarrar or tomar instead in Latin America.

And that’s all for today!

Do you want to learn more Spanish?

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Thank you very much and until next time,


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