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10 Spanish Dialects: How Spanish is Spoken Around the World

Even within a single language or language group there may be major differences in speech. The term dialect refers to those differences in intonation and pronunciation – and even words and expressions that exist in some branches of a language while absent in others.

Spanish has a rich history that spans continents and epochs, and offers a prime launching point for examining the origins and proliferation of dialects. What follows is a basic explanation of the ten major Spanish dialects, where they are spoken, and how they differ:

SPAIN (Peninsular Spanish):

Castilian
This term applies to the official Spanish language, spoken in northern and central Spain.

Andalusian
This dialect, spoken in southern Spain, is the second-most popular in the country after Castilian. However it differs greatly from northern Spanish in the ceceo/seseo distinction, the emission (“elision”) of the consonants ‘d’ and ‘r’, the aspiration of the consonant ‘s’ at the end of words, and the dropping of final consonants. These factors result in a softer and more fluid sound than that of other Spanish dialects.

Murcian
This dialect is spoken in the Autonomous Region of the Community of Murcia in the southeast of Spain.

Distinct Language Groups
There also exist several distinct language groups in Spain: Catalan, the official language of Andorra and spoken in parts of northern Spain; Basque, the language isolate of an autonomous Spanish community in the Pyrenees; Galician, the Portuguese-influenced language of Galicia, in northwestern Spain; and Extremaduran, a three-branched language spoken in the autonomous community of Extremadura of western Spain.

Canary Islands:

Canarian
The dialect of the Spanish Canary Islands closely resembles the Caribbean Spanish dialect, characterized by the aspirated ‘s’, elided consonants, and the pronunciation of the letter ‘h.’ The Canarian vocabulary is also heavily influenced by Portuguese due to Portugal’s efforts to colonize the islands.

Gibralter:

Llanito
Llanito is a combination of Andalusian Spanish and British English. The existence of Gibraltar as a British overseas territory results in this peculiar language combination.

The Americas:

Latin American Spanish
This is the dialect of urban mainland Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and the majority of Central and South American countries. While there are differences in how Spanish is spoken amongst people in these countries, Latin American Spanish is usually referred to as thus in order to differentiate between it and the Spanish spoken in Spain. The difference is similar to English as it is spoken in England vs the U.S.; U.S. English speakers can understand each other with little effort even though someone from the Midwest speaks very differently than a person from the Northeast or a person from the Southeast.

Rioplatense Spanish
This dialect is spoken in the River Basin region between Argentina and Uruguay, as well as in both countries. The predominant difference between Rioplatense and other Spanish dialects is the intonation of its speakers, which resembles Italian more so than Spanish. The 19th-century saw many Italian immigrants to this region and particularly to Buenos Aires.

Caribbean Spanish
This dialect is spoken in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and along the East coast of Mexico and Central America; it is characterized by elided middle consonants and omitted final consonants, as well as an aspirated ‘r’ that is pronounced like the Portuguese ‘x.’

Africa:

Equatoguinean Spanish
This dialect represents the only official Spanish spoken in Africa; it has incorporated some vocabulary and pronunciation patterns from both native Guineans and immigrant Germans of Cameroon.

Coda
When you decide to take those Spanish lessons, whether it’s for professional reasons, or if you want to travel, you will probably want to find out from your instructor or program director about the dialects they offer. Most of the time, the answer you’ll hear is Castillian. That will be great about 98% of the time, but take the geographic, and cultural information in context, and make an informed decision! ALTA offers online language training to businesses and government agencies, so feel free to contact us for information.

Comments

  1. I am from the Western coast of Central America but have traveled throughout the Caribbean, Central America,and have friends from Mexico and Argentina. I find that Caribbean Spanish is more an “accent” difference than a dialect, and of course colloquial expressions vary but I don’t find that sufficient to qualify as a dialect. Please enlighten me.

  2. Ines, the Spanish from the areas you’re discussing is often shaped and reshaped simply by the people that come a learn in those nations.

    It isn’t until you get to the “Root” Spanish that it really becomes different. For instance, getting into places in the Carribian.

    Other languages shape the colloquialisms, in Europe the Spanish you hear in North Spain is very different from Barcelona Spain. In The areas you’re talking about, the dialect is a lot more informal.

    It’s the subtle difference between English in England and the US. In every place, something different affects it.

  3. A dialect is a regional variation in language. This can include morphological, syntactical, and phonological traits. I believe you are referring to phonological variations when you say accents. For instance, the obvious trait to me is the aspiration of s. There are several more which make the Spanish spoken in the region distinct from others.

  4. I would not call it Dialects – It is a matter of different pronunciations depending on the region. At the end of the day, it does not matter how the spanish is pronounced, if you are from a spanish speaking country you will understand what is being said. In other words a Venezuelan will understand a chilean adna chilean will undersytand a puerto tican and a puerto tican will understand a person from spain. They maight use different vocabulary but never a variation of the actual grammar.
    A dialect is a variation on the grammar of a particular language.

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  6. Am Steve from Nigeria,

    I wanna start Spanish class very soon. Please tell me, which dialect do i go for?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Usually a good professor will teach you on what is known as Standard spanish (Espa~nol neutro) that cannot be traced to a single country but is percfectly understood but all.

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  8. Just wondering what variation of the spanish language spoken here in Northwest New Mexico and Southern Colorado?

    • I am from Venezuela and everyday I interact with people from all the Spanish speaking countries and we understand each other perfectly… maybe you two are talking plain slang and not proper Spanish.

    • Is the problem the pronouncing of the word or are you speaking using specific words from your country ex. In Puerto Rico a kite is called a cometa or chiringa while in Cuba and other parts, it’s called a papalote. When my Cuban wife said that I had no idea what she was talking about.

  9. I’ve found that less educated or cultured people (often from very small towns, though not necessarily) use more colloquialisms in their speech than those that have had more education and/or the opportunity to travel, and, therefore, they’re harder to understand.

    I’m originally from the Dominican Republic (Caribbean) and among friends/family even the more educated may use a lot of regional expressions, otherwise one could sound like a snob… But when speaking to foreigners we make our best effort to use real Spanish vocabulary we were taught in school.

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  11. I agree that dialect is the wrong word. It is the same Spanish spoken throughout Latin America and in Spain. I know this because I speak it fluently as a second language and I can communicate well with Spanish speakers from all over the world. Some accents are more difficult to understand, but usually because the speech is very rapid, loaded with “modismos” and skipping or blurring over letters and words. My only difficulty has been in rural Costa Rica where the local Spanish is so loaded with slang and colloquialisms that I often haven’t had a clue what they were saying. Otherwise, no problem.

  12. I had a discussion about these different dialects some time ago. Can people in Argentina understand the Spanish from Mexico? I want to travel to Argentina so I want to know what Spanish I should learn?

    • One of the main differences between Mexican Spanish and Argentine Spanish is the pronunciation of the Double L. In Mexico, it’s pronounce like a “Y” so Villa sounds like VEE-ya. In Argentina, the LL is pronounced
      “Zh” which sounds like the “g” in Mirage, so Villa sounds like VEE-zha.

  13. I’m mexican and I can understand perfectely the argentinian spanish. The colloquialisms are a little harder to understand, but the propperly spoken argentinian spanish can be understood by anybody who speaks spanish. Greetings.

  14. This is fascinating and very educational! I knew that there were many dialects of Spanish, but I didn’t know what they were called, nor what all the differences were. I imagine there are others besides what you’ve named here too.

  15. I agree with Gabriel Marquez about speakers of different countries understanding each other. I am a Puerto Rican born Stateside and was in Spain a few years ago on vacation. I was looking for the bus stop and I stopped and asked an elderly lady where I could catch the bus. I used a Taíno (Puerto Rican Spanish) word for bus, not a Spain Spanish word, and she completely understood what I was asking and properly directed me. She never even flinched.

    • Diane, there is no “Taino” word for bus. If you are referring to guagua as opposed to el autobus, then that is a Canarian word (canariense) which is also used in Cuba.

        • I learned the term guagua from my Puerto Rican/Cuban friends many years ago. Hence, i know what it means. However, that is not a Spanish word, per se, but what I would consider a vernacular word.

  16. I agree with Gabriel Marquez. The variations of Spanish are only variations. We understand each other regardless our country of origin. In a dialect (like in German dialect) the words are SO DIFFERENT that communication can not take place. Your article is misleading. Yes, there are differences (and you explain them well) but no dialects. For example, a book is written in Spanish and all Spanish speakers understand its content. That would be impossible if a book was written in Swiss German and you asked a Bavarian to read. He’d have NO clue.

    • Hello all,

      A dialect commonly speaking, is a way of speaking that comes from another language but has varied significantly so that they are now mutually unintelligible.

      In linguistics, they are ALL considered dialects, even if they are 99.999% equal, so for example, the spanish spoken northern spain is different than the one from southern spain which is difference from the one spoken in the east of venezuela, which is different from the one spoken in the mountains of venezuela, etc. so the concept of a language is an idea in linguistics since they are all dialects.

  17. Hello all,

    A dialect commonly speaking, is a way of speaking that comes from another language but has varied significantly so that they are now mutually unintelligible.

    In linguistics, they are ALL considered dialects, even if they are 99.999% equal, so for example, the spanish spoken northern spain is different than the one from southern spain which is difference from the one spoken in the east of venezuela, which is different from the one spoken in the mountains of venezuela, etc. so the concept of a language is an idea in linguistics since they are all dialects.

    • I just want to clarify that the people in the Philippines do not speak nor understand Spanish at all. We use English here as a second langiuage, it goes hand in hand with Tagalog as the co official language of our country.

      You might be refering to Chavacano/Chabakano, a language which developed from different languages with a very strong influence from the Spanish language.

      But, I am telling you, ” it is NOT a variety nor a dialect of the Spanish language “.

      Their have been other and several more languages which influenced this so called creolle aside from Spanish. The Chabacano of Cavite alsso have Japanese influences and the Chabacano spoken in Zamboanga also have influences from indigenious languages, not to mention that some of the Spanish words that you might hear from this language creolle are already ‘ cognates ‘ which already have a different meaning from its original Spanish derivation.

      There is this one Zamboangueno Chabacano speaker who posted a small paragraph written in Chabacano ( Zamboangueno ) and asked the Hispanoparlantes what they think about the paragraph he posted and even asked if do they understand it, and based on that post he had, the Zamboangueno Chabacano seems to be a mixture of Spanish, Tagalog, Visayan, and I even saw a couple of Portugese looking words. I am not that good in Spanish and I can really admit that i still have a long way to go to being fluent but my observations regarding that post were agreed by some other Spanish speakers who saw it.

      Anyway, that language creolle ( Chabacano ) if it is really correct to be considered as a creolle is indeed unique and i can also say a very fascinating language.

      • Juan Tamad, I a Filipino who just retired from California state with the position of Bilingual English/Spanish case worker (social work), meaning speaking, writing and reading them. I was born in 1951. Prior to that I had worked with Saudi American Bank in Jeddah heading the import and joint venture section with Spanish and other Latin countries. I learned to speak, read and write Spanish in Philippine schools where you cannot graduate in college if you lack or flunk Spanish subjects. Why are you saying that all Filipinos do not speak or understand Spanish at all? Please correct yourself.

        • By the way, Mr. Juan Tamad, I initially worked (just after college) with the Fernandez Hermanos (Compania Maritima) and the Ortigas Conglomerates in Metro Manila because of my Spanish/English/Tagalog qualifications. So I believe it is better to have more qualifications, don’t you agree? For your info, I have travelled to Mexico, Madrid, Malaga, Buenos Aires, Guatemala City, San Salvador, Tijuana, Barcelona, and of course in Los Angeles where I now reside. I want to travel to Africa’s Equatorial Guinea to see how they speak Spanish (their national language). By the way, my Chavacano friends disagree with your blog because they speak 80% real Spanish language. Keep smiling!

          • And Mr. Juan Tamad, official stats indicate today that one percent of the Filipino population are able to speak Spanish. That means 1% of 100 million people! I leave it for you to decipher!

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  20. In Galicia, they speak Galego or Gallego. It is NOT Portuguese influenced. Galego is the origin of Portuguese, they were once the same language. They are still very close to being the same language. However, with the unification of Spain, Galego pronunciation has been overrun by Castilian. However, there are some who still sound almost exactly like a Portuguese speaker.

  21. I totally disagree with your “Rioplatense Spanish.
    This dialect is spoken in the River Basin region between Argentina and Uruguay, as well as in both countries. The predominant difference between Rioplatense and other Spanish dialects is the intonation of its speakers, which resembles Italian more so than Spanish.”. Spanish spoken in Argentina has nothing to do with Italian intonation at all!. Please, try to listen to an Argentine speaker and, then post your own opinion

  22. Mr. Claudio Rigor.

    I see that you have been living abroad for quite a while now neither you have updated yourself on the latest happenings on your own country the Philippines.

    Let me give you some updates:
    It was in 1972 that the former president Ferdinand Marcos has abolish the spanish subjects in both the private and public school curricula because he thought that Spanish isn’t that useful any longer thus putting more emphasis on improving the english skills of the students and taking away a seemingly useless burden for them as well.

    There is this article in Wikipedia saying that the former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo asked help from the Spanish government regarding the reimplementation of the spanish subject to both the private and public schools in the Philippines again for which it was completely reimplemented in the year 2009. But this data is ” completely erroneous”.

    No spanish subject nor any new subject related to any foreign language was added up to any curricula of any private nor public schools in the philippines. Making the Filipino and English subject the only language related subjects being taught in schools for the last 4 decades now.

    So i am clearing things for you now Mr. Claudio Rigor, Filipino and English are the only languages that your fellow Filipinos are able to use to communicate.

    There used to be mexican, colombian, venezuelan, and argentinean telenovelas being imported here before but all of them are already being dubbed into Filipino.

    I am referring to the majority of the Filipino population. more than 1% of the Filipinos can also speak Japanese, French, Chinese, Korean, and other foreign languages as well.

    So please Mr. Claudio Rigor, visit your own country once in a while. you seem to be already completely clueless on what’s going on here right now.

    And another thing Mr. Claudio Rigor,

    I am not arguing about the advances or benefits that one could get from learning more languages, I myself am learning new languages in order enjoy the benefits of being a polyglot as well. What i am trying to clarify is that Spanish is almost not spoken nor understood by the majority of Filipinos nor it is being taught in schools anymore.

    • Nice to see Mr. Eisner utilizing MySpace (as opposed to, say, SueTube); a company that understands, appreciates, and is willing to protect the bonafide intellectual property rights of others.Hope it works out; though Disney doesn’t have a great record with the Internet.Maybe this time will be di82erent&#ff30;

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