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Spanishexperto Free Spanish Lessons - Grammatical Differences Between Spain and Latin America
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Spanish is the third most widely spoken language in the world after Mandarin and English. It is spoken in as many as 33 different countries to varying degrees. For these reasons it is not surprising that the Spanish that is spoken around the world varies a little from region to region.

The reality however is that regional variations of Spanish do not in any way compromise the ability of Spanish speaking people around the world to communicate with each other. In comparison such differences are no greater than the differences in English that are spoken in England, Australia or the United States for example.

Even though regional variations of Spanish have little or no impact on effective communication it is useful for novice speakers of the language to be aware of what these variations are. To make things simple this lesson attempts to differentiate between the Spanish that is spoken from Spain and the Spanish which is commonly spoken in most parts of Latin America, although regional differences in both Latin America and Spain do exist to.


Regional differences can be divided into three types as follows:


1 Grammatical differences.
2 Differences in the use of nouns.
3 Differences in pronunciation.
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Grammatical differences - 1



Probably the most important grammatical difference is the use of the subject personal pronoun 'vosotros' (you - all) which is used in Spain but which isn't used in most parts of Latin America. Instead 'ustedes' (you - all) is used.


Subject Personal Pronouns


Spain

Latin America

English

yo

yo

I

you

él/ella/usted

él/ella/usted

he/she/you (polite)

nosotros

nosotros

we

vosotros

ustedes

you (all)

ellos/ellas/ustedes

ellos/ellas/ustedes

they/you (all) polite


The most serious implication of this difference is that verbs are formed (conjugated) differently. In Latin America the formation of all verbs with the personal pronoun 'vosotros' is simply not necessary.



Spain Vosotros tenéis que escucharme. You (all) have to listen to me.
Latin America Ustedes tienen que escucharme. You (all) have to listen to me.


In Latin America no differentiation is made when addressing groups of people. 'Ustedes' is used in all cases. In Spain 'vosotros' is used to talk to a group of people in a less formal way and 'ustedes' in a more formal way.


The exclusion of the subject personal pronoun'vosotros' makes learning how to form Spanish verbs easier but we wouldn’ t advise this strategy. All the relevant Spanishexperto lessons teach the student how to use ‘vosotros’ with the same amount of importance as all other subject personal pronouns.


One drawback of using'ustedes' is used in place of 'vosotros' is that it may be necessary to use the subject personal pronoun in sentences so that verb formations are not confused with those meaning 'they' (ellos/ellas)



(Ellos / ustedes) van a venir conmigo They or you (all) are going to come with me.

Latin America - The subject personal pronouns 'ellos/ellas' or 'ustedes' are necessary.



Vais a venir conmigo. You (all) are going to come with me.
Van a venir conmigo. They are going to come with me.

Spain - No subject personal pronouns are necessary.


The implications of object pronouns


If 'vosotros' is used in speech then so to must the direct and indirect object pronouns that are used to refer to 'vosotros'


Direct and indirect object pronouns


Spain

les =

them

 

 

you all (polite)

 

os =

you (all)

 

 

 

Latin America

les =

them

 

 

you (all) polite

 

 

you (all)

For a full understanding of what object pronouns are and when and how they are used take a look at the lessons on direct and indirect object pronouns.



Mañana os enseñaré mi invención nueva.  Tomorrow I will show you (all) my new invention.

Spain Direct object pronoun 'os' is used



Mañana les enseñaré mi invención nueva a ustedes. Tomorrow I will show you (all) my new invention.

Latin America Direct object pronoun 'les' is used



Notice in the Latin American example ‘a ustedes’ is included at the end of the sentence to make it clear that ‘les’ does not refer to ‘them’


Grammatical differences 2



In some parts of Spain it is common to use ‘vos’ instead of the subject personal pronoun ‘tú’ meaning ‘you’ in English. This is also common practice in some Latin American countries too, including Argentina.


() puedes empezar ahora. You can start now. ( More usual )
(Vos) puedes empezar ahora. You can start now. ( Sometimes used )

In reality neither ‘vos’ nor ‘tú’ is necessary in the above sentences because the verb formation of ‘poder’ (to be able) is unique and tells us that the subject personal pronoun refers to ‘you’ .


Sometimes however subject personal pronouns are necessary or are used for emphasis or for clarity.


Estoy bien, ¿y ?  I’m fine, and you? ( More usual )
Estoy bien, ¿y vos?  I’m fine, and you? ( Sometimes used )


Grammatical differences 3



In Spain and in some parts of Latin America the indirect object pronouns le and les are used in place of direct object pronouns lo/la and los/las. This is an example of what is known as leísmo.


Normal usage of direct (lo/la/los/las) and indirect (le/les) object pronouns.



lo

(Yo) lo vi

I saw him/it

la

(Yo) la vi

I saw her/it

los

(Yo) los vi

I saw them (masculine)

las

(Yo) las vi

I saw them (feminine)

 

 

 

le

(Yo) le habl

I spoke to him/her/it

les

(Yo) les habl

I spoke to them (masc & fem)

The verb ‘ver’ (to see) is transitive which means it is always used with direct object pronouns. However due to leísmo you may hear this verb being used with indirect object pronouns as follows:


(Yo) le vi

I saw him/it

more common

(Yo) le vi

I saw her/it

much less common

(Yo) les vi

I saw them (masculine)

more common

(Yo) les vi

I saw them (feminine)

much less common


In reality indirect object pronouns are rarely used in the feminine in this way and should probably be avoided.


Differences in the use of nouns


Regional variations in the use of Spanish nouns are fairly common but again this is unlikely to seriously reduce the ability of Spanish speakers to communicate. Very often Spanish speakers around the world will be aware of different names that are given to the same things in different countries simply by listening to music, watching movies or reading foreign literature


This is also true of names given to things in England and the United States for example (sidewalk = pavement / boot = trunk)


In reality different naming conventions are not only restricted to Spain and Latin America. Variations occur throughout Latin America too. Don't forget however that the majority of Spanish nouns are named in the same way the world over. For this reason you will probably learn regional variations of certain nouns as and when you need to.


Below is a simple list of some common words that are named differently in Spain and various parts of South America.



Spain

Latin America

English ( UK )

el ordenador

la computadora

computer

correo electrónico

e-mail

e-mail

los calcetines

las medias

socks

la nevera / el frigorfico

la refrigeradora

fridge

el coche

el carro

car

la patata

la papa

potato

el bocadillo

el sándwich

sandwich

la bañera

la tina

bath

el plátano

la banana

banana

la planta

el piso

floor (1st, 2nd etc)



Differences in pronunciation


The way that Spanish people speak in different countries and different regions within different countries is more a result of dialect than of actual pronunciation. The Spanish alphabet and the way the language is spoken are actually highly ordered.


The Spanish language is more phonetic than other languages and often words can be pronounced simply by spelling out each letter separately in a phonetic way. This is not always the case however as certain combinations of letters together give rise to different pronunciations. This is especially true of paired vowels.


The following different pronunciations of paired letters are the most common that you should be aware of:


ce

Spain

like 'the' in the English word theft

 

Latin America

like 'se' in the English word seven

ci

Spain

like 'thi' in the English word think

 

Latin America

like 'see' in he English word seen

ll

Spain & Latin A

like 'y' in the English word yes

 

Argentina

like 'sh' in the English word shape



For much more information on pronunciation including the alphabet, paired letter, stress and intonation take a look at the pronunciation section of this website.


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