The differences between Latin American Spanish and Spanish in Spain

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The differences between Latin American Spanish and Spanish in Spain

We are frequently asked about the differences between the Spanish spoken in Spain and the Spanish of Latin America. While there are distinctions between the varieties of Spanish, the first thing to make clear is that Spanish speakers can all understand each other, whether in Cadiz or Cusco, Salamanca or Santo Domingo. It’s like an American speaking English with a Brit and an Australian… normally no problem at all.

This said, there are some differences between the Spanish of Spain and the Spanish spoken in Latin America. There are also differences between the types of Spanish spoken in different parts of Latin America. And in different parts of Spain!

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For a start, what is the language called? In Latin America, it is normal to call it castellano (Castilian, after the Castile region) as opposed to español (Spanish). This is also true in parts of Spain, where regional languages such as Galician and Catalan are official languages that could also be labelled “Spanish”.

Why are there differences?
When Spanish colonisers travelled the world to spread the word of god and take precious metals in return, they brought with them a language that was in the process of changing back at home.

A linguist called Marckwardt came up with the term “colonial lag” to describe a situation where the language spoken in colonies does not keep up with innovations in the language in its country of origin. An example in English would be the use of fall in the USA and autumn in Britain; when British colonisers went to America, fall was more common than the Latin version in British English. The older, Germanic word fall later became obsolete in Britain but has remained in common use in the USA. This process happens with vocabulary but also with grammar.

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E-mail: hello@novatiatranslations.com.ng