It’s Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15)! Let’s break down three types of Spanish that are highly influential not just in culture, society, and travel… but in translation, interpretation, and localization.
Right now, you may be feeling confused: “What do you mean ‘types’ of Spanish? Spanish is Spanish!”
Well, there are at least ten main varieties of modern Spanish. And some of these have as many as ten sub-varieties of their own. These differences are the central preoccupation of language localization services.
There are about 500 million Spanish speakers worldwide. In general, they can understand each other. But if you’re learning Spanish or dealing with Spanish speakers, it’s great form for you to be aware which kind is being used.
Let’s begin where Spanish began.
1. Castilian Spanish
Today, Spain only makes up 10% of the world’s Spanish speakers. And even so, Spain’s linguistic patterns are quite varied. The most common variation is one that Spaniards don’t call español, but castellano. Or, in English: Castilian.
One of the distinguishing features of Castilian is that the second person plural (also known informally in the U.S. as “y’all”) uses the word vosotros. They only use the term ustedes in formal situations.
The other distinctive characteristic of Castilian is its famous ceceo. This refers to how z’s, ce–’s, and ci–’s, are pronounced with a “th” sound. This is what English speakers oftentimes incorrectly refer to as a lisp. Which is ironic, considering the English language also makes broad use of the “th” sound!
2. Andalusian Spanish
Isn’t it weird that Spain is the only Spanish-speaking country that uses vosotros or the ceceo? Even though they’re responsible for having colonized a fifth of the world and none of those nations adopted those features?
Time to double-take and look at the de facto dialect that was used in Spanish colonization. You’ll find it in the lovely southernmost province of Spain: Andalusia.
Andalusian sheds the use of vosotros and the ceceo – but it doesn’t stop there. It also sheds the S’s at the end of words. Or, more accurately, it replaces that “s” sound with an “h” sound, like an exhale. Gracias, for example, would be pronounced “graciah”.
This is very important to know, as it does much to explain the different kinds of Spanish we see around the world. It notably describes the varieties we see in the Caribbean and Central American regions.
3. Mexican Spanish
Latin America is where Spanish is correctly called the term we all know: español. In studying español, you may have heard that Mexican Spanish is the easiest type to understand. But why is that?
For a start, it is the variety with the most speakers. In addition, it will certainly tend to be the easiest to understand for Americans, simply because a large shared geographical border creates a significant amount of cultural interchange.
But that isn’t all. Mexican Spanish uses a slightly slower, more relaxed cadence. And clearer enunciation. What’s more, the ends of sentences are sonorous and rise in tone, which is engaging because it’s expressive and makes you feel like you’re listening to a story.
Some things, however, might make Mexican Spanish challenging. For instance, the fact that it is heavily influenced by indigenous languages. Or that fact that pronunciation is nasal. And then, of course, there is the delightful plenitude of unique slang.
Connect With a Culture
There are so many kinds of Spanish that haven’t even been touched on in this article. With so much variety, localization and training make all the difference. Connect with a language service today and learn about how you can relate your business with an untapped audience.
About Language Connections:
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