How can you easily distinguish between Spanish dialects


With around 460 million native speakers, Spanish is the one second most spoken language in the world, only Chinese has more native speakers. Even more surprisingly, in addition to Spain and South and Central America, 58 million Spanish speakers live in the USA (as of 2017). In addition, is Spanish Official language in 21 countries.

With so many speakers in so many countries, it's no wonder that not all Spanish is the same.
The Spanish dialects differ not only between countries, but also within a country. In addition, some words are only used in Latin America, others only in Spain.

When Spanish native speakers talk about their own language, they often don't say “hablo español” but “hablo castellano”, both of which mean “I speak Spanish”. So there is no difference between Castellano and Spanish.

But how do the Spanish dialects differ within Spain and how does the Spanish spoken in Latin America differ from Spanish in Spain? We clarify.


Spanish language and dialects

There are many Spanish accents. So the Spaniard can have a Spanish accent when they speak English or the German can have a German accent when they speak Spanish. A accent thus only refers to the pronunciation of a language. A dialect on the other hand is a Variation of the main language, here are the main differences in:

  • grammar
  • vocabulary
  • pronunciation

Before we turn to the dialects within Spain, it should be mentioned that although Spanish is the official language in all of Spain, there are other regional languages ​​that are also official. Regional official languages ​​are:

  • Catalan
  • Galician
  • Basque


Difference between Spanish and Catalan

That sounds somehow very similar, almost a bit like the linguistic closeness between German and Dutch, some will think. And indeed, anyone who speaks Spanish and French should at least be able to read Catalan more or less well, because many words are similar to either Spanish or French. However, Catalan is its own language and not a dialect.


Spanish dialects

There are a variety of Spanish dialects in Spain itself, including:

  • Andaluz (mainly spoken in Andalusia)
  • Murciano (spoken in Murcia and in some regions of the Provinces of Alicante)
  • Extremeño (mainly spoken in Extremadura)
  • Canario (spoken in the Canary Islands)

Madrileño is, as the name suggests, spoken in and around Madrid and is the most common dialect in the country. In this dialect, the c and z are stressed like an English "th".


You have the feeling that you speak Spanish quite well, but the deeper it goes into the south of Spain, the less you understand? Don't worry, you're not the only one, even Spaniards from other parts of the country occasionally joke that they don't understand their own compatriots from Andalusia. Because the Spanish dialect spoken here tends to little tooarticulate. In addition, some letters can be more easily guessed when pronounced than they can actually be heard.

This applies above all to the "s", Which is often left out of the pronunciation or to linger, how the German" h "is pronounced and how breathy it sounds. But there are also some exceptions, for example if an “s” is at the beginning of the word, it is pronounced.

Also the letter "d“Is sacrificed every now and then. He falls silent with the endings ado / ada. In addition, the “d” is often left out at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the word when pronouncing it.


Más o menos", So" more or less ", becomes" in Andaluz "ma o meno„.

Universidad becomes universiá (university) or enfadado becomes enfadao (angry)

You can see even more examples in this video.



Spanish Latin America - differences

The Latin American Spanish comes closest to the Spanish spoken in Andalusia, this may mainly be due to the fact that in the age of the colonization of Central and South America by the Spaniards, these mainly came from Andalusia and Extremaduria.

Because of its proximity to North America, Latin American Spanish now uses more words derived from the English than is the case in Spain.

The melody and pronunciation of Spanish differ from country to country, but also there are differences in vocabulary and not only between Spain and Latin America, but also between the individual Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America.

In some cases, different vocabulary is simply used for certain words, for example, “zumo” (juice) in Latin America usually means “jugo” and “patatas” (potatoes) become “papas”.

But there are also vocabulary which, in addition to their original meaning, acquire a new meaning in a different context. For example the word "fresa“Which means strawberry in most Spanish-speaking countries. Anyone who uses “fresa” in Mexico can also talk about a young person who is neat, but this term has a negative connotation. In Argentina, by the way, strawberry is called “frutilla”.

Countless other examples can be cited here. So whoever receives a "torta“Ordered something different depending on the country and region. In Spain you probably get served a sweet cake, in Mexico you get a sandwich with vegetables, eggs, avocado or meat.

“Torta” can also be a slap in Spain. This example shows impressively that with some words it is definitely worth knowing in which other context they are used, otherwise you can quickly and unintentionally make a mistake.

Spanish in Argentina

The Spanish in Argentina, there are clearly differences to European Spanish as well as to Spanish in other Latin American countries. In Argentina and Uruguay, for example, instead of ""For" you ", the word"vos“Used. And while in Spain for “you” and “you” the word “vosotros"Is used, in Latin America one uses"ustedes“.


The importance of the differences between Spanish-speaking countries for translation

When it comes to translation, it is often underestimated how important a successful localization is, not just the translation, but also the corresponding one Adaptation to the respective target market. Because Spanish is not just Spanish.

Words or phrases that have a completely harmless meaning in Spain may be considered disreputable, offensive or simply used in a different context in other Latin American countries. There are also little things, such as the different use of “vos” and “tú” in Argentina.

Therefore, when translating your content, you should definitely rely on qualified translators who not only have the language skills, but also what is necessary cultural background knowledge in order to adapt your content perfectly to the desired target region. This is a great way to ensure that your message is really getting across.

EHLION is one FullserviceAgency for professional language services, which is why we naturally work with translators from various Spanish-speaking countries. Whether marketing translations, app localization or translations for the tourism industry, our experts know their way around. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about translations, we will help you.


Conclusion - Spanish, a language with many dialects

Due to the enormous number of native Spanish speakers, there are correspondingly many Spanish dialects, and an entire article could be devoted to each of them.

If you are curious, there are many ways to find out more about the Spanish language and its dialects, for example with the language magazine "ECOS", which is aimed at fans of Spain and South America. In the article “Spanish words with different meanings” you can read more about the different ways in which the same word can be used.

Our colleagues at EHLION are available to answer any questions you may have about translation. Feel free to contact us for a consultation. Contact us for your translation projects into Spanish or other languages.