So you want to learn Spanish? Maybe you’re just looking for a general Spanish-language program or maybe you’re looking to brush up on some Spanish for the trip of a lifetime. So, which dialect should you choose?
Not all Spanish programs are created alike, and in fact, there are several different dialects of Spanish you need to consider when choosing the right Spanish language course for you. If you plan a specific trip to a region where Spanish is spoken, that makes it a lot easier to narrow down the best Spanish dialect for you.
Maybe you want to take a trip to Europe and visit Spain itself? If that’s the case, you’ll want to find a Spanish language program that uses the Castilian dialect, which is the official Spanish language spoken in northern and central Spain.
There is another similar dialect in southern Spain known as Andalusian, which has more of a flowing sound to it phonetically, but should be understandable with a background in Castilian Spanish. Or at least adequate for purposes of a vacation.
If you’re taking a trip to Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, or the vast majority of Central and South American countries, you’ll want to learn Latin American Spanish. The Latin American designation simply differentiates it from the European form of Spanish, but learning one should prepare you for speaking Spanish in both regions. Think of it as the difference between United States English and United Kingdom English. They’re obviously very different dialects but understandable and interchangeable between both countries.
One important difference between Castilian and Latin American Spanish dialects is worth noting. The second person plural pronoun is “ustedes” in Latin America and “vosotros” in Spain. This might lead to some confusion, especially if trying to pronounce proper, grammatically correct Spanish as each word has its own set of conjugations. But you can pretty safely bet that if you get confused on those two words, you won’t be the first person or the last and the locals will probably understand what you are trying to say.
Also, native speakers usually recognize that while words like “zumo”and “jugo” mean essentially the same thing, in Spain the preferred term is “zumo”. There may be small variations like this, but both dialects should work in either location.
While Latin American Spanish applies to most of Central and South America, the exception to this rule is a Spanish dialect called Rioplatense that is spoken in the river basin region, including Argentina and Uruguay. In the 19th century, there were many Italian immigrants to this area and as a result, the Spanish there sounds a bit like Italian.
One difference between the Argentine dialects and the Mexican dialect is the pronunciation of double L. In Mexico, the double L is a “Y” sound as in “villa.” But in Argentina, the double L is pronounced like a soft “G”, such as the G in “image.”
There is another variation of Latin American Spanish known as Caribbean Spanish, which is a dialect spoken in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and in some areas along the East Coast of Central America. (You may also find this dialect in areas of the United States, such as Miami, Florida.)
A fairly narrow variation of Caribbean Spanish is Canarian, found in the area of the Spanish Canary Islands. The main difference is in the pronunciation of a few consonants, namely the “S” sound and the “H” sound.
Unless you’re planning a very specific trip to a place like the Canary Islands, you can see the top choices for Spanish-language dialects are Latin American and Castilian. Spanish is the second most learned language in the world, right after English, so if you decide to invest in a course or program to help you learn Spanish, make sure to clarify what dialect is featured in that particular training program.
As with any Spanish speaking area, if you find yourself having trouble in, say, Puerto Rico, you can always utilize a Puerto Rico translation service.
Whichever Spanish speaking program and dialect you learn should help you in any region of the world where Spanish is spoken. Your Spanish will improve the more you use it in a variety of different settings and countries.