Not all Spanish is the same. I’d like to speak fluent Spanish but I get blocked by the variety of Spanish spoken in California…the vast majority is Mexican Spanish, often dialects and not educated version of Spanish, or “Spanglish”.
Also, cannot find enough learning material in Mexican/Spanish.
So what’s a universally understood Spanish?
If you’re a beginner, don’t worry too much. Do a quick Google search on the very obvious differences between the dialects. Pay attention to those particular words and sounds as much as possible.
Just use whatever learning material is available to you. If you want to practice speaking, “uneducated” people will still likely understand you even if you learned based on a different dialect than theirs.
I learned Spanish at university from teachers from Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and El Salvador. They were all great friends and and wonderful teachers. Some of the vocabulary is different (and interesting), Argentina uses ‘vos’, the pronunciation varies, ‘vosotros’ is only used in Spain, but all these varieties are Spanish and people from all the Spanish-speaking countries can understand one another. One experience I really enjoyed has been to speak with Spanish speakers from many different countries in a Peruvian youth hostel. I suggest you don’t limit yourself. You will be able to make adjustments to whatever variety you are immersed in when the time comes.
You ll be understood in any variety. Don’t sweat that. Read whatever you like and talk with whomever you find interesting. Get used to all accents. Later on, you may want to choose a particular one to speak in, but there’s no rush
It depends on where you are planning to travel or who you are speaking with. If it is mostly people from Mexico, then I suggest a Latin American and/or Mexican Spanish phrasebook such as Lonely Planet. Even if you’re at an intermediate level, there are things you will discover in a phrasebook:
Latin American is the one I used for my trip to Argentina.
I also highly recommend the book Correct Your Spanish Blunders by Jean Yates (McGraw-Hill). This book is packed with useful tidbits and helped me understand lots of things, like the difference between el capital and la capital; nouns that are singular in Spanish but plural in English; when to use ‘los’ with days of the week; how to express a more general meaning by omitting the indefinite article of a noun when used with ‘tener’; the difference in the meaning of an adjective when used with ser vs. estar; verbs of feeling and the indirect object + verb + subject pattern; etc.
The book Streetwise Spanish (comes with a CD) shows colloquial differences between Spanish spoken in Los Angeles, Miami, San Juan, Puebla City, Mexico City, Guatemala City, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, San José, Caracas, Bogotá, Quito, Lima, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Santander and Madrid.
Yabla is a nice site for watching and listening to Spanish videos:
I also practiced rolling my r’s by putting a d in front of the word ‘ropa’ (drrropa) and practicing the difference between pero and perro, and the subtle difference between perro and Pedro.
Hi, there, long time no see or hear
Great personal insight on how to study the language. The feminine and masculine nouns in Spanish are sometimes confusing to me because they resemble my native language yet are totally opposite! I will purchase the material suggested and will watch Yabla…that’s exactly what I need to do.
Thank you for the reply!
Great to hear that you are talking (regularly?) with friends from Colombia and Perú.
That book about correcting blunders lists 15 of the most common feminine and masculine nouns. At least one is like the English homonyms: capital (city) and capital (wealth), except in Spanish of course they have different genders. (I wonder what the grammatical term for this is? — Same spelling and pronunciation; different meaning AND GENDER. — Is that still called a homonym?) Would be interesting to see how many of these are opposite of Italian.
Yes, exactly. The wikipedia says: In linguistics, a homonym is one of a group of words that share the same pronunciation but have different meanings, whether spelled the same or not. A more restrictive definition sees homonyms as words that are simultaneously homographs (words that share the same spelling, regardless of their pronunciation) and homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of their spelling). The relationship between a set of homonyms is called homonymy. I don’t dare to pronounce it with my pronunciation I will surely get it wrong :O. I wish I could speak with my latin friends regularly but with our busy schedules it doesn’t happen unfortunately. Have a great day and Happy S. Patrick’s Day, Bruce.
Chiao Manuela, Credo che non è importate lo spagnolo che tu studi. Si vuoi continuare a studiare finirai per parlare lo spagnolo de tuoi interlocutori quotidiani. Inoltre fra tutti, d’America o Europa, ci comprendiamo. Magari, in un futuro Sati Uniti sarà el paese spagnolo più grande del mondo. Credo che gli americani parlano con un suo propio acento simile al mexicano. I realtà, una picola comunità americana parla spagnolo da sempre.
Questo comentario arriba tropo tarde. Però, io voleva reaccendere el forum italiano.
Buon fortuna con lo spagnolo!
From a quick glance, it looks like for how many dialects and spread apart they are (geographically), they aren’t as different as thought they’d be. Unlike German, where a few miles away from you village, it could be completely different.
any educated person that speaks spanish can understand any dialect the only difficulty comes with slang and words that are only used in a particular country even the vosotros forms that are used only in spain are known even if they are never used ,at times spanish countries that have large indigenous populations like peru ,bolivia and maybe mexico , in some areas they might throw some indigenous words with their spanish but thatis not a problem.
just learn which ever dialect you want unless you really want to sound like your from a particular place
Hi Manuela it’s just like English. The English from Australia, England, Ireland, Canada, the USA…etc and even within the same country you will find differences in pronunciation, vocabulary and phrase wise.
In Spain the “standard Spanish” is quite different in pronunciation from the one spoken in Andalucía or the Canary Islands… even within Andalucía you find differences. But we all understand each other.
What ftornay suggests is not the ideal in my opinion. It will be very difficult to learn one accent after you’ve been learning your Spanish with a mix of accents. You’ll have to make a big effort and spend lots of time trying to correct your accent to a specific one.
If you really want to have one accent it’s best to make the effort at the begging and listen to just one accent, learn that accent, then afterwards get exposed to the rest of the accents. That is the ideal. is that achievable? It is, but it’s quite difficult to zone out and just listen to one accent while you’re learning the language.
But if you’re just concerned about being understood, don’t worry about it. Just learn Spanish with whatever accents you find. You will be understood, that’s for sure.
Don’t let this accent issue prevent you from learning Spanish. It will be ok whatever you decide to do.
Traditionally, the Spanish varieties taught in the Western Hemisphere are Mexican Spanish and Colombian Spanish. They are considered to sound more “flat” than Argentinian Spanish for example. Also, in terms of being understood, you can’t go wrong with Mexican and Colombian Spanish since many of the TV programs, pop songs, soap operas, etc. watched and listened to throughout Latin America come from those countries.