What’s the difference between Latin American and Castilian Spanish?

I’m a writer and I have a decent enough grasp of the Spanish language (I’m not fluent, but I can read a lot of it) from study and teaching myself and studying Latin for the past three years, but I want to be fluent in both Latin American and Castilian Spanish, though, no matter how long that I’ve been studying, I’ve been unable to find an accurate, simple description of Latin American versus Castilian Spanish. Are they similar, just with different slang, such as British versus American English?

I know that one comes from Spain while the other is from Latin American countries (hence the term, "Latin American" Spanish), but what I really am not getting is the difference between their grammar and vocabulary. Is there any?

And anyone who speaks Latin American Spanish, can you understand what someone from Spain is saying, or vice versa? Some people say that you can and others say that you can’t. I personally haven’t personally been able to understand all Latin American Spanish, but that’s because I’m not quite fluent yet and don’t speak it enough, mostly writing.

I speak some Spanish (Castilian) but want to start studying Latin American Spanish because I’m setting more of my stories in a Latin American culture as opposed to Spanish or New Mexican and want to have an idea of what I need to study. Is it universal? Or will I need to get a Latin American Spanish dictionary? And how long does it take for one to learn Latin American Spanish after studying Castilian for a little over two years?

Thanks in advance! 😀

12 Comments

  1. The concept of "Latinamerican Spanish" has always mistified me. You should listen to someone from Mexico and then someone form Chile, someone from Cuba and then someone from Uruguay, etc… As you would expect, the slang, intonation, accents, are totally different. Just as you can tell if someone is from the US, Australia or England just by listening, so can we tell if someone is from Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, etc…

    But Spanish is Spanish, everywhere. Of course we understand each other. It’s the same language!!! The big difference between Spanish from Spain and Spanish spoken in any Latinamerican country is the second person plural:

    "Vosotros" in Spain, conjugated as….well, 2nd person plural, naturally.
    "Ustedes" all around Latinamerica, conjugated as 3rd person plural. Since there’s no "vosotros", there’s no specific 2nd person plural conjugation.

    And then there’s "Vos" (second person singular) only in Argentina and Uruguay, conjugated in a very peculiar manner. But again they also use tu, usted, ustedes, but not vosotros. That’s only in Spain.

    Many words and vocab are used differently, but again, most of the times it depends on the country. You cannot group the whole Latinamerican countries and expect them to use exactly the same slang, words, meanings. No, sorry. It’s a long way from Rio Grande to Patagonia. Still, there are some words that have a common meaning in Latinamerican countries different to that in Spain.
    For instance, "coger" is an innocuous word that simply means to catch, to get, to take, in Spain. While in, probably all of Latinamerica, it’s taboo; it’s used as slang for "to F – uck."

    rtorto
  2. You are making a false distinction. Castilian Spanish is also spoken in Latin America, not just Spain. Castilian Spanish is one of the five languages of Spain. The others are Basque, Galician, Catalan, and Aranese. Castilian Spanish is the official national language of Spain, and the one that spread to Latin America. Although there are some regional differences between the Castilian of Spain and the Castilian of Latin America, they are still the same language.

    RE
  3. Latin American Spanish has more Anglicisms and archaisms.
    South American Spanish is closer to southern Spain Spanish.
    Of course accent and intonation would be different.
    And there are many differences between Latin American and US Spanish.
    Argentinian Spanish has an Italian influence esp around Buenos Aires.

    Flatlander
  4. "RE"
    Those languages are useless. Don’t waste people’s time by mentioning regional languages.

    Spanish speaking Latin Americans can understand Spaniards and vice versa. The difference is in vocabulary and accent. You will need a spanish dictionary that distinguishes between the two different dialects of Spanish.

    Good guy
  5. In Spain they sound as though they have a speech defect…a lisp..thththth. They say :
    grathias for gracias
    Barthelona for Barcelona
    Jimineth for Jiminez.

    Rolyn- yn gandryll rwan
  6. There is no (single) Latin American Spanish. Some words are only Mexican, other only Chilean and so on.
    Among the few similarities that appear in most Latin American countries, we don’t use vosotros as 2nd person plural but ustedes, with the conjugation of ellos.
    As for the 2nd person singular, in Argentina, Uruguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador we use "voseo". That is vos instead of tú as a pronoun with slight differences in conjugation.
    The use of the informal tú/vos versus the formal usted is different in each country (and time), in some places is considered vulgar or disrespectful and in other is perfectly normal.
    For the vocabulary, you can always try the "official" link of the Real Academia Española:
    https://buscon.rae.es/draeI/
    But they are not very Latin American friendly.

    tincho
  7. Hi, I’m from Buenos Aires and first of all let me say that Spanish is the castilian language as spoken in spain and Castilian is the language as a whole, in every country where is spoken, so if you say, I speak Spanish you’re saying that you speak the castilian language of Spain.
    Conjugations are very easy to understand, in castilian latin american countries we take off the i sound, for example:I
    in spain……………………………..-¿cómo estáis?
    in latin america…………………….-¿cómo estas?
    in spain………………………………-¿no coméis?
    in latin america……………………..-¿no comes?etc. It’s very easy.
    I don’t have any trouble to understand any spaniard, mexican, chilian or whoever be but idioms and slangs are different from each other but comprehensible.
    I’m sorry for my english level I’m trying to improve it but I don’t have much time to do that, good luck.

    seechio
  8. Hi my family is from Spain so I will try to explain as best as I can.

    I think there is a difference when it comes to our accent, sayings, words and prononciation. My family is from the south of spain and our accent would be compared similar to cuban, puerto rico and south american. However in saying that, its still very spanish from the peninsula and you can tell its spanish. As with the Canary Islands of Spain, although they sound like people from Venezuela..you can still tell its more or less from Spain.

    Mexican accents from the campesino..I do not understand. I have a hard time understanding the spanish that is spoken by the aztec or the indian people of mexico..the accent is way too distinct than ours. I find it much easier to understand some central and south americans and cubans and puerto ricans.

    Also a difference would be the ZETA sound( the greek iunfluence on Castillian) . THis would be used primarily in Northern and Central Spain..wherein the C and Z are pronounced as TH, whereas in contrast in Andalucia( Southern Spain) and The Canarias( Canary Islands) C and Z are pronounced as the S sound as you would find in Latin America.

    Now lets take a look at a comparison of Spanish from Spain and the words verus Spanish from Mexico……let me give you examples

    Words Spanish Mexican
    HatGorro – Cacucha
    Turkey Pavo – Guajalote
    The f Word Joder/Follar- Chingar/Cojer
    To get or catch-Cojer in Spain
    Car Automovil,coche,maquina – Carro
    Cart pulled by a donkey isCarro
    Omolette Tortilla /torta – Torta
    Girl Niña- Chamaca

    Again those are just a few ..too many to mention.

    Just remember this the Spanish language has thousands of words that originated from Arabic. Latin american countries with heavy indian influence will take from the tribal language and mix it with castillian spanish..thus the difference and confusion.

    Also in correction to what someone had wrote about how we would say HOW ARE YOU IN SPAIN…WE say COMO ESTAS!! The COMO ESTAIS is an old Castillian!!

    I do hope this helps!

    Joseph
  9. I read your inquiry and before diving into the responses…i will add mine first…as to not dope any form of bias but my own…My family migrated from Honduras, CA to the US where I was exposed to many different cultures, and especially Hispanic (of Spanish descent).

    I took “Spanish” in school as I grew in this country…I still recall many times where my mother and uncles would make corrections to my school works…I saw their frustrations and now as an adult realize that part of it was that I was not being thought the language as they wish I had learned….So my “Spanish” is as fluent as my ethnicity…My family would always make the case to me that I did not necessarily speak “Spanish” that we spoke Castellian…They always used to attempt to explain to me why…and the reasons for the “Real Academia”….My mother used to tell me how it was a paramount in Honduras for her to learn Castellian and that in a vulgar sorta way kids called it spanish…In my parents curricula, the second language they learned was Latin…

    With this in mind As I lived in Europe I came to find out, as my own experience…that Spanish as we know it…or the natural de-generation of that language (kinda like it was for Latin) as it expands by geographical, ethnic, and cultural boundaries is less than any other language that I’ve come accross…like say English…In my opinion there is much more difference in language across the English and say the Scots…

    When in Spain, I learned about the other languages housed in that once Kingdoms…but the most interesting thing to me was that if one goes to the ghetto’s and slums…..there the strict rules of the language are less enforced….I would think that something similar happens in the rest of the “Spanish” speaking regions accross the world…but not to the language…

    I have never had a problem speaking Castellian any where….I do admit that the problem I had with the language was my own lack of vocabulary and knowledge of the language…also understanding what my parents tried to teach me…Catellian is a melodic, beautiful, and rich language…

    Oscar
  10. to all who confuse castilian with latin spanish, let me set the story straight, i’m not spanish but my friends from madrid, barcelona and valencia spain have told me that there are different dialects of castilian from spain:

    catalan, galician, basque, andalusian which antonia banderas speaks, and some others i don’t remember but it’s all castilian from spain and they all sound similar. i’ve heard penelope cruz, carmen moura, paz vega, antonio banderas, the gasol brothers, basketball players in the nba, all of these spaniards speak castilian with various accents but all are so similar you almost cant tell the difference.

    bottom line, i hate mexican spanish but from south america it’s more caribbean accent.

    thomas
  11. I have a question. I am searching for the English meaning of the Spanish word “voyi.” No, not “voy.” Since I was told that “voyi” is Spanish but, on the other hand, I cannot find it within contemporary Spanish, I assume it is Old Castilian/Medieval Spanish. So, if someone is expert in such field, can you translate to English the Spanish term “voyi” and tell of its origin (that is, is it archaic Spanish…such as, Old Castilian/Medieval Spanish)? OR, is it a borrowed term from another language that has found usage amongst Spanish peoples? Thanks. You can write to me at: paulclan3@yahoo.com or to Park1@mctc.edu. Thanks, again. Sincerely, Paul. 12/30/2014

    Paul Park
  12. to all of you who want to know difference between latin spanish and castilian from spain, well i can say this, i have friends from madrid, barcelona, valencia and andalusia, they all speak castilian but the accesnt is different like american english and british english.

    listen to penelope cruz, antonio banderas, both are castilian but accent is different.

    cruz from madrid and banderas from andalusia southern spain.

    thomas (@antarcticman1)

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