With over twenty countries speaking Spanish as their official language, which Spanish is better? Which dialect of Spanish should I learn? From which country should my Spanish teacher be? How much does Spanish really differ across different cultures? These are the questions that language learners often ask, and in this article I will share my opinion as well as additional resources to shed some light on the topic.
When starting to learn Spanish and choosing a teacher, first, it is important to identify your reasons for learning the language. Is it because most of your colleagues are from Mexico and you want to better communicate with them? Or, does your girlfriend come from Ecuador and you want to be able to interact with her family? Or, is it because you love to dance salsa and want to understand Marc Anthony's Vivir La Vida? If you have a particular country of interest, you might want to choose a teacher who comes from that country or who has spent some time living there or who is familiar with its people and culture. This way, from the very beginning, you will be learning the dialect of Spanish with which you will be interacting very closely, and there will be no “surprises” in terms of pronunciation or vocabulary.
It doesn't mean, however, that if you learn from a teacher from Peru, you will be unable to communicate with Venezuelans. Spanish spoken in various countries around the world is essentially the same, because it is the same language, and there are some slight variations in pronunciation and vocabulary, and these variations, which can vary from country to country, or sometimes from one region to another, are called dialects. People who speak different dialects can understand each other, but people who speak different languages can’t.
Most variations in Spanish dialects around the world are reflected in the use of personal pronouns, vocabulary, and pronunciation. For example, instead of using “tu” as an informal way of addressing people, some dialects use “vos”, while “vosotros” is used instead of “ustedes” as a way to address a group of people. In terms of vocabulary, there are certain words that are universal across countries, and yet in some a preference is given to a unique way of identifying an object. For example, the word for “umbrella” is “paraguas”, whereas in Colombia, you are more likely to hear “sombrilla”, and such examples are many. In addition to that, the pronunciation of some sounds varies from country to country – Argentineans and Uruguayans pronounce the “ll” sound (as in “me llamo …”) as “sh”, while in other countries that sound is pronounced as “y” in “yellow” and yet in others as “j” in “jolly”. Spaniards also have a distinct way of pronouncing "c" which sounds like the American "th" sound (just pay attention to how Enrique Iglesias pronounces "coraTHon" or how Spaniards say “graTHias”). Once you begin learning Spanish, you will start to recognize these differences in pronunciation when you come in contact with people who speak that dialect.
Now, to the question about which Spanish is “better”… Some nations brag about their Spanish being the purest form after the original Castilian Spanish – I have personally met many Colombians, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, and Venezuelans who swore to me that their dialect of Spanish is sought after because of its purity. In every country there are people who speak a language properly while others do not and for that reason you might want to study with an educated native speaker if you wish to attain proper grammar and pronunciation. (If, on the other hand, you are an undercover cop who will be infiltrating a gang, perhaps it is a better idea to learn street Spanish so as to not stick out as a sore thumb with your proper Spanish. Just a thought J.) At any rate, just because of differences in pronunciation, one dialect of Spanish is in no way superior or inferior to another. Throughout the many years of learning Spanish I have had teachers from Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. In my opinion, discovering the variations in expressions and vocabulary – the personal twist that each country puts on Spanish – makes learning the language that much more fun! And along with the language comes the fun of each country's cuisine, folklore, music and rich culture! So whichever country’s dialect of Spanish you choose, have fun learning it and enjoy applying it to practicing speaking it with native speakers and soon you will see that people from many different countries understand your Spanish!
To learn about the various expressions specific to each Spanish-speaking country, visit the site Veinte Mundos and then click on the country of interest: HTTP://WWW.VEINTEMUNDOS.COM/EN/SPANISH/
For more in-depth information about dialects and regional differences in Spanish watch this video: HTTP://WWW.YOUTUBE.COM/WATCH?V=SPFGEGLZ4C4
What are your reasons for learning Spanish? Submit a video, photo, or short story about what motivates you to learn Spanish for you for a chance to win a $50 gift card! More details here: HTTP://WWW.WORLDCLASSLANGUAGES.COM/BLOG/WHAT-ARE-YOUR-REASONS-FOR-LEARNING-A-FOREIGN-LANGUAGE.HTML
Watch a video of our student Chris explaining in Spanish why learning this language is important to her: HTTPS://WWW.YOUTUBE.COM/WATCH?V=MHJ8-OGQXCM#T=11
Coming soon! A video of our Spanish teacher Rosario from Colombia talking about Colombian Spanish and the four regional dialects of Spanish that exist in Colombia.
Coming soon! A video to help learners of Spanish to have their proficiency level evaluated from the comfort of their home (with the help of some technology, of course!)