Spanish Dialects: How Many Varieties Exist?
Not all Spanish sounds the same!
As a language spreads, it evolves and changes to its surroundings and creates a new dialect. Many social groups and isolated areas eventually form their own unique dialect from the original language.
There are dozens of different Spanish dialects throughout the world for you to discover! This informative guide lists the most widely spoken Spanish dialects, along with their distinctive features and locations.
Get ready to discover the differences and similarities between all varieties of Spanish. Let’s dissect these dialects!
What is a Dialect?
A dialect is different from an accent! Accents are subtle variations in the way speakers pronounce their words. Dialects, in contrast, are differences in grammar and vocabulary.
Spanish isn’t the only language with dialects! They’re in nearly any language. English is one of the most common examples.
There are dozens of countries that speak English, including the United States, England, Australia, and Canada. When you visit one of these countries, you are still able to communicate with the locals, even though the local language sounds different from the US English you grew up with!
How Many Versions of Spanish Are There?
Did you know that there are 3 main areas where Spanish is spoken and 16 main general dialects of Spanish? In addition to these, there are still many more country and area-specific dialects!
There are more than 500 million Spanish speakers scattered across the globe. Over time, these speakers molded and shaped their language to fit their environment and culture. As a result, nearly every Spanish-speaking region has its own unique dialect!
But, don’t worry! Spanish speakers from one area are still able to understand speakers from the other regions. Despite its large number of dialects, Spanish, in general, remains extraordinarily uniform. No other language, besides English, exists across so much of the globe in such a consistent pattern.
Spanish in Spain
This Spanish dialect is fairly clear and easy to understand. It used the personal pronoun vosotros, while most other dialects do not.
Southern Spain features Mediterranean coastline, Moroccan culture, and the Andalusian dialect!
Andalusia has a large population, so Andalusian is the second-most spoken dialect of Spanish in Spain. Andalusian Spanish is in Melilla, Gibraltar, Ceuta, and, of course, Andalusia.
You can find Catalan-speakers in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, the Valencian Community, Andorra, and the easternmost areas of Aragon.
The Spanish region of Galicia speaks Galician and Castrapo Spanish. This form of Spanish includes a heavy amount of Galician syntax and grammar.
Some Galicians think that the Galicia region is overly influenced by the Spanish language. In fact, they even gave their Spanish dialect, Castrapo, a pejorative name. The name is a combination of the words castellano (Spanish) and trapo (rag).
Located on Spain’s Western border with Portugal, the autonomous community of Extremadura has significant World Heritage Sites, ancient Roman Temples, and stunning national parks. Another essential feature of this area is Castúo Spanish!
Murcia, located in southeastern Spain, is also home to a spoken dialect.
The capital city, Murcia, hosts the largest number of locals that speak Murcian Spanish. You’ll also hear Murcian Spanish in other towns like Cartagena, Yecla and Jumilla, Lorca and Águilas, and Caravaca and Calasparra!
The Canary Islands off the coast of Spain have their own dialect.
Canarian Spanish closely resembles Caribbean and Andalusian Spanish. It aspirates the s, omits certain consonants, and pronounces the letter h.
Canarian vocabulary also borrows many words from Portuguese! In the past, Portugal tried to colonize the islands. The country didn’t succeed in its imperial efforts, but it did leave behind a trickle of its language!
Spanish in the Americas
Spain may be the birthplace of Spanish, but this language created a home of its own within the Americas! With 400 million Spanish speakers, it’s no surprise that the Americas house the largest number of Spanish dialects.
New Mexican Spanish
Even though most U.S. citizens speak English, the United States still has its own Spanish dialect!
The Spanish dialect in the United States, New Mexican, is heavily influenced by the Spanish in Mexico. Many states near the border speak a Spanish style that is a mixture of Mexican Spanish and English.
This large population of Spanish speakers is thanks to immigrants from Mexico and other Central American countries. These immigrants play an important role in the U.S. economy. Their entry into the labor force helps raise the GDP and increase income across the country.
Latin American Spanish
Let’s explore the question, “what is Latin American Spanish?”.
In essence, Latin American Spanish is the type of Spanish spoken in Mexico, Central and South America. Nearly every country in this area speaks Spanish! A major exception to this rule is Brazil, which speaks Portuguese.
There are so many Spanish speakers in Latin America that the region contains dialects within itself.
Naturally, the largest Spanish-speaking country, Mexico, developed its own dialect.
Mexican Spanish borrows many words from English. Some of these words sound just like they do in English (hobby), while others are English words with a Spanish twist (parquear).
Another distinctive feature of Mexican Spanish is its lack of the present perfect. Instead of this verb tense, Mexican Spanish uses the simple past tense.
Central American Spanish
Central America connects Mexico to South America and includes the countries of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize.
Central American Spanish is unique through its second person singular pronoun vos. This informal pronoun replaces its more common equivalent, tú.
Rioplatense Spanish, also called Rioplatense Castilian or River Plate, comes from a mixture of Italian and Spanish.
In the Río de Plata Basin of Uruguay and Argentina, this language flourishes. This area has a huge Italian population that’s one of the largest outside of Italy.
Some of the characteristics of Rioplatense Spanish are its distinctive pronunciation features and unique intonation. For example, Rioplatense Spanish uses vos instead of tu for the second-person singular pronoun.
You can also find this dialect in East Bolivian, and Paraguay!
The Andean-Pacific region includes Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, West Bolivian, and Andean Venezuela. Andean-Pacific Spanish is one of the most well-articulated and clearest dialects.
In fact, Colombia offers the easiest Spanish accent! This neutral accent makes this country the perfect place for language learners. Colombians speak slowly and tend not to cut and mesh words together like other speakers.
Another distinctive feature of Colombian Spanish is that y and ll are pronounced like a soft j. For example, instead of saying yo, you say jo.
While Andean-Pacific Spanish is one of the easiest dialects to understand, Chilean Spanish is one of the most difficult! Its aspirated s and unique ai ending make this dialect a challenge.
Chile, of course, speaks Chilean Spanish. However, this dialect also exists in Cuyo, the mountainous region of central-west Argentina.
If you’re looking to level-up your Spanish game, then take a trip to the coastal Caribbean!
This stunning beachy area consists of Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Panama, Caribbean Colombia and Caribbean Mexico, and Gulf Coast Mexico.
Caribbean Spanish speakers are time savers. They love cutting off chunks of words. Some of their favorite letters to leave off are d and s.
You can thank the Canary Islands and Andalusia for helping to create this difficult dialect! Most of the colonists that settled in the Caribbean came from the Canary Islands of Andalusia. Now, Caribbean Spanish copies many of the same language features from these Spanish regions!
From consonant weakening to an aspirated r, nearly every aspect of this demanding language is designed to challenge!
When European powers scrambled to claim African territories in the 19th century, the Spanish empire was already on the decline. Although Spain didn’t expand much into Africa, its language still managed to sneak in.
Equatoguinean is the only Spanish dialect that holds a national official status in sub-Saharan Africa.
This dialect is most similar to European Spanish. However, German immigrants and local Guineans also had an impact on this language’s creation. The result is a beautiful mix of Spanish, German, and Guinean all rolled into one language!
Spanish Dialect Map
Wow, that was a lot of dialects!
Take a look at this colorful Spanish dialect map to easily get a clear picture of each dialect’s respective region.
Find the Right Dialect For You With a Free Spanish Class
According to the American Foreign Service Institute, Spanish is a Category 1 language. That means it is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn!
With an ever-expanding demand for Spanish in the workforce, there’s no better time to start learning this versatile language than now. Take advantage of the many opportunities that Spanish provides by signing up for a free trial class today!
Homeschool Spanish Academy offers a proven method for learning Spanish. All our certified teachers are from Guatemala and personalize each 1-on-1 lesson to suit your learning needs. No matter which of the Spanish dialects you want to learn, HSA can help you achieve your language goals.
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