What is Neutral or Standard Spanish and Why Does the Media Use It?
Have you ever heard the term “Standard Spanish” or “Neutral Spanish”? If you’re learning Spanish as a second language and you look through resources online, it is likely that you’ve come across this term.
Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world. Approximately 572 million people speak Spanish today! Not only that, but it is also the third most used language on the internet. The most amazing part about Spanish is that over 20 countries speak it as the main language!
Having such a variety of people and places in which Spanish is spoken, it is only natural that a lot of different dialects and variations would emerge. Hence the need to have a neutral or standard Spanish language.
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What Exactly is Standard Spanish?
Because there are so many variations to the way Spanish is spoken, it is difficult for companies to localize and adapt the Spanish they use in media to every single region. Can you imagine? The media would need to make different versions of the same content in different variations of Spanish to reach every single region that speaks Spanish.
That would be crazy!
That’s why neutral or standard Spanish emerged. Standard Spanish was created by linguists who selected various common and intelligible terms that make sense to most Spanish speakers. The ultimate goal of standard Spanish is to avoid the use of local terminology and regional slang in its construction of Spanish media.
There’s not really an official Academy of Spanish that is in charge of enforcing the neutral or standard Spanish. The Real Academia Española has attempted to do so, but they’re more focused on maintaining Castilian Spanish.
You may also like: Learn Castilian Spanish with this List of Free Resources
Outside official academies, the forces that keep standard Spanish alive are Spanish language television broadcasts, journalists, and media companies whose need for a “universal Spanish” results in their product(s) being understood by as many Spanish speakers as possible.
How Do Companies Use Standard Spanish?
Mass media has come to revolutionize how human beings receive information and communicate. Especially the internet! It is easy to find and share information with the world.
And for companies whose success depends on the power of their reach, ensuring that the information they create can be used by as many people as possible is of utmost importance.
If a company is targeting a very specific group of people or a region, then it makes sense that they’ll use the regional language that those people speak—using colloquial phrases and slang words unique to their region in order to attract their attention.
So what happens when companies want to target larger, global audiences? They use standard Spanish!
Instead of using idioms or local phrases, they opt for common words that are used in different Spanish-speaking countries. And if there are no common terms, then they use a general or broader term.
For example: sneakers.
In English, sneakers are a specific type of shoes. But in Spanish, there is no common, global term to refer to sneakers. Instead, broader terms are used like zapatillas or zapatos or even tenis. Those words will be easily understood by anyone who speaks Spanish.
When it comes to colloquial Spanish, it is much harder to achieve standard Spanish. It is with formal Spanish that the differences in the use of the language start to disappear. Scientific and academic Spanish use universal terms and can be understood in every Spanish-speaking country.
Of course, mass media and our easy access to information can make the learning of a new language much easier. Everything we need to know is out there and all we have to do is reach for it! Mass media helps us expand our vocabulary. You can learn about the way Spanish is spoken in different parts of the world and create a mutual understanding of the language. You may learn how a certain word is said in different regions, but you’ll also learn not to use it in conversation because it will not be understood.
If you want to learn more about idioms and peculiar words used in different regions of Central America, check out 35+ Must-Know Spanish Slang Words in Central America.
Standard Spanish Vocabulary
There’s no real guide you have to follow. Language is versatile and complex, especially Spanish. If you’re watching movies or TV shows that take place in different Spanish-speaking countries, you’ll come across some words that are different depending on the region. Here are some examples of common words with differing names and what the standard Spanish version of it is.
Chile and Bolivia: Bombita
Central America: Pajilla
Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Spain: Pajita
The standard Spanish word for drinking straw is pajita or pajilla. Both are universally understood.
The standard Spanish word for popcorn is palomitas.
Chile, and Spain: Pegamento
The standard Spanish word for glue is pegamento.
Argentina and Chile: Lavoratorio
Guatemala, Venezuela, and Mexico: Lavamanos
The standard Spanish word for bathroom sink is lavamanos.
Spain and Venezuela: Perrito Caliente
Mexico, Chile, and Guatemala: Hot dog
The standard Spanish word for hot dog is hot dog.
The standard Spanish word for us is autobús.
Mexico and Guatemala: Mesero
The standard Spanish word for waiter is camarero or mesero. Both are understood.
Practice Standard Spanish Today!
Now that you know what neutral or standard Spanish is and how to use it to your advantage, it’s time to practice! Sign up for a free class with us at Homeschool Spanish Academy and you’ll get the chance to practice your Spanish with a native speaker from Guatemala. By having 1-on-1, real-time conversations with certified, professional Spanish teachers, you are guaranteed to improve your Spanish pronunciation, vocabulary, and overall fluency. Get started today!
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