Different Spanish Accents Around the World
How can we distinguish between the different Spanish accents found around the world? While there is no best Spanish accent to imitate when learning Spanish, being able to tune in to the different accents can be an important tool when studying. Don’t expect to pick up on them straight away, but we have a handy guide below to help you out!
Tip: Heading on your travels to a Spanish speaking country? Find out what to expect from its accent below!
Spanish accents around the world
There are many different Spanish accents you will find on your travels, such as:
- Hispanic accents
- Castillian Spanish accent
- Andalusian Spanish accent
- Canarian Spanish accent
- Argentinian Spanish accent
- Chilean Spanish accent
- Cuban Spanish accent
- Puerto Rican Spanish accent
- Venezuelan Spanish accent
- Colombian Spanish accent
- Peruvian Spanish accent
- Mexican Spanish accent
- Carribean Spanish accent
- Spanish accent in Africa
Like most languages, Spanish accents vary greatly around the world. Spanish is an official language of 20 countries. Take English, as an example. It’s an official language in 67 countries. Just think of the different accents. British English, Jamaican English and US English… you can see the variety!
Spanish is no different and Spanish accents differ greatly around the world. Today we’ll take a look at the differences in pronunciation, as well as some words that are unique to certain Spanish speaking countries or regions.
Hint: Language is fluid and varies from region to region, so don’t get too hung up on memorising the accentual differences all at once! You can always learn in context through your favourite shows or movies.
Even within the UK or US, you can think of how regional accents vary. Spain is no different and today we’ll look at three Spanish accents from Spain. We’ll then explore some more Spanish speaking countries. The list won’t be exhaustive, but we hope to cover as many as possible!
There are many ways to pronounce words and phrases in Spanish. Although the pronunciation varies, generally the intent will be the same. Despite the task being daunting, if you have a good level of Spanish, you should be able to make sense of the accents from place to place.
Let’s look at some of the Spanish accents in Spain…
Castilian Spanish accent
The Castilian accent, found in north and central Spain, is the basis of modern standard Spanish. Although the Castilian accent is intelligible with other accents in Spain, it does have some unique properties.
Treatment of z, ci and ce sounds in Castilian Spanish
Words with a z, ci or ce sound are pronounced as th in Castilian Spanish. To make this sound you stick your tongue behind your teeth and let air pass through the small gap. Think the th- in thin!
- To put this into context, cinco would be pronounced as thinco.
- Gracias as gra-thee-ass.
- To an English speaker, this usage can often sound like a lisp, but it’s a sure-fire way to pick out someone from Spain when speaking Spanish.
The use of vosotros in Castilian Spanish
Vosotros (you all) is used in place of ustedes in the Castilian Spanish accent. Examples would be vosotros sois mis amigos (you guys are my friends). You would need to learn both the vosotros and ustedes conjugations when studying, so neither would be unfamiliar. It’s just important to know the difference in usage in Castilian Spanish!
Andalusia is the southernmost point on the Spanish mainland. In the Andalusian accent, people pronounce z, or c when followed by an i or an e, like an s. This is known as seseo. Letters such as s and d are also often dropped off the end of words in Andalusian Spanish.
- The Spanish word for third, tercer, would be pronounced as terser in the Andalusian accent.
- Casa (house) would be pronounced as caza in Andalusian Spanish.
- Any guesses for how the same word would be pronounced in Castilian Spanish? Check the end of the blog for the answer!
The last in our list of accents found within Spain is the Canarian accent. The Canary Islands can be found off the coast of mainland Spain! A beautiful place to visit if you ever get the chance. In Canarian Spanish, the s at the end of words often changes to h and dropped ds at the end of words are also common.
Let’s look at some of the Spanish accents from the rest of the world…
The accent in Argentina is a beautiful version of Spanish. As we step away from Spain, the differences become somewhat more apparent. The double ll sound turns into somewhere between a j and sh sound (yeismo). The same goes for the y sound! Tú (you) is also non-existent in the Argentinian Spanish accent. In Argentina, tú becomes vos. Examples:
- Pollo would be posho (pojo).
- Llave would be shave (jave).
- Llorar would be shorar (jorar).
- Tuyo would be tusho (tujo).
- Tú hablas would be vos hablás.
Chilean Spanish is known as one of the most unique and challenging Spanish accents! Spanish was brought to Chile and what is now Peru in the 16th century as part of the Inca Empire. Seseo and yeismo (discussed above) are common features of Chilean Spanish. The s sound changing to a h sound is also common in the Chilean accent. D sounds are also dropped throughout words, so this can take some getting used to!
The Spanish spoke in the region is a mixture of Spanish from the Spanish colonisers and the indigenous languages spoken at the period. As Chile was rather remote, it has led to the Spanish being spoken there being extremely unique as it was relatively cut off from other influences. Chilean Spanish was influenced in large parts by Andalusian Spanish, as many of the colonizers hailed from Andalusia.
There are also some differences in conjugation in Chilean Spanish. An example of this would be the conjugation for tú verbs. Although the tú is still most used (unlike in Argentinian Spanish), the conjugation changes. For example, tú hablas becomes tú hablai.
In terms of Spanish accents around the world, Chilean Spanish is certainly one of the trickiest to get your head around!
We are already familiar with the disappearing d at the end of words from the Chilean accent. In the Cuban accent, the letter d is often omitted in the middle of words when between two vowels. As such, canasdo (tired) would become cansa’o. Another feature of the Cuban accent is the disappearing s, both the beginning and in the middle of some words. E.g. mosca (fly) becomes mocha, with the s becoming a h sound.
Puerto Rican accent
A feature of Spanish in many places around the world, the rolling r is often not pronounced in the Puerto Rican accent. Instead, the r sound is often changed to an l sound. As such, pueta (door) sounds like puelta. As in the Cuban accent, the d sound is often omitted from words in the Puerto Rican accent. The s sound becoming a h sound is also a prominent feature!
Another feature of Puerto Rican accent is words are often cut off before the ending. So, you’ll hear pa instead of para.
As in the Puerto Rican accent, words are often cut off before their ending in spoken Spanish. So para becomes pa. As with the Puerto Rican and Cuban accents, you’ll also hear the dropped d sound at the end and in the middle of words when between two consonants.
As with the the Peruvian accent which we’ll cover later, you’ll also hear lots of use of the diminutive (ito/ita).
Like the Chilean Spanish accent, the Colombian Spanish accent was also heavily influenced by the indigenous languages that preceded it. It’s much easier to understand than the Chilean accent. The ll sound stays for Columbian Spanish and it’s thought to be the most neutral of Latin American Spanish accents.
The s sound is emphasized in Peruvian Spanish, particularly in rural areas. The expression of the diminutives ito and ita are also extremely common in Peru (much more than other Spanish speaking countries). The letter d is also sometimes pronounced as t in the Peruvian accent.
Another common aspect of Peruvian Spanish is the confusion between consonant sounds and the vowels often differentiate from ‘Northern Spanish’.
Mexico is home to 125 million Spanish speakers! This means that there are a lot of regional differences in accent around the country. The Mexican Spanish accent tends to be spoken a lot softer than many of its counterparts, so it is known as a wholesome Spanish accent to listen to and speak.
Spanish speakers in Mexico often gravitate to the use of undefined articles more. An example of this would be el coche changing to un coche. Questions are often also asked in the negative form.
Z and c are used before i or e in speech. Earlier we discussed this sound in Castilian Spanish (where it sounds like th). In Mexican Spanish, the sound is pronounced more like s.
There are also colloquialisms in the Mexican Spanish accent, such as the word for car, coche, turning into carro in Mexico. Also the word for computer, which turns from ordenador to computadora.
Caribbean Spanish accent
The Caribbean Spanish accent is an eclectic mix of Canarian Spanish and the languages of Africa and the Caribbean. Like the Canarian Spanish accent, you’ll hear the dropping of ds and the s sound changing to h in words. Such as estación changing to ehtació.
Spanish accent in Africa
Equatoguinean Spanish is the only variety of Spanish that holds national official status in Africa. In Equatoguinean Spanish there is no distinction between indicative and subjunctive moods. So, that’s one less thing to worry about! Articles are also often omitted and usted can be used with the tú verbal conjugation.
YouTube Spanish accents to find out more!
You can YouTube any of the above Spanish accents to hear them in context. At Newsdle, our content team is spread out between Spain and Mexico, so you can also head to our sample lessons to hear the difference in accents. Remember to select between Spanish (Spain) and Spanish (Latin America) in your Preferences to try out both accents in the audio.
We also offer a variety of male and female voices, so it’s a great way to expose yourself to a variety of voices and accents. Study little and often and set yourself weekly study targets through our news-based lessons! Available on website at www.newsdle.com and app (Apple App Store and Google Play Store).
We hope you enjoyed our introduction to the different Spanish accents around the world! Whether you’re heading for a business trip to Madrid, a vacation to the Caribbean, or simply want to brush up on your language skills, we hope you found the content useful.
Be sure to check back soon for more Spanish learning blog content soon and we’ll see you next time!