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Español latinoamericano

Latin America Spanish


Influence of Andalusia and the Canary Islands

Spanish spoken in Latin American countries shows a lot of similarities to the Spanish spoken in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia and the Canary Islands, because of the predominant role of people from these regions during the conquest of the Americas. This is evident mainly in words that contain -s-, -c- ("soft c" that precedes -e- and -i-) and -z-, which would all be pronounced as -s-.

For example: casa (house) and caza (hunt) are both pronounced as "casa", with a -s- sound. This is typical of Andalucía and the Canary Islands. In central and northern parts of Spain they make the -z- sound (which sounds like the unvoiced "th" as in "thing" in English).

Omitting the final -s in plural words is something else Latin Americans, Andalusians and people from the Canary Islands share in their pronunciation. For example, when saying "cuatro casas" (four houses) you will hear "cuatro casa", omitting the last -s marking the plural. This not only happens with the consonant -s but also with other consonants at the end of a word; for example, the word "reloj" (watch) becomes "reló" when spoken. 

There is not only a difference in pronunciation but also in vocabulary. For example, many words inherited from the Arabs during their reign in Andalucía, that are part of the daily vocabulary in southern Spain, were also inherited by the Andalusian people who travelled and settled in the Americas. Therefore Arabic words like alhaja (jewel) or alcoba (bedroom) are still used in Latin America.


Anglicisms in Latin American Spanish

In terms of anglicisms, because of the direct influence they receive from the United States, Latin American vocabulary has more English words than Peninsular Spanish does. For example, one common word used in Latin America which is not generally used in Peninsular Spain is "computadora", adopted from the English word "computer", while in Spain the word "ordenador" is widely used. They also talk about "comprarse unos bluejeanes" meaning "to buy some jeans" whereas in Spain the word vaqueros is used for jeans.

And, of course, some words have also been borrowed from the indigenous languages in Latin America, which also vary from region to region.


Voseo and yeísmo rehilado

One of the main differencies between Spanish spoken in Latin America and the Spanish peninsula is the use of voseo in the Latin America; however it only applies to the areas in and around the River Plate (Río de la Plata), i.e., Argentina and Uruguay, Eastern Bolivia, Paraguay, and Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, southern parts of Chiapas in Mexico). Voseo refers to using vos where peninsular Spanish uses  (informal "you" singular). It is conjugated exactly the same as  except in the present tense and in the imperative.

For example:

English: Are you cold? 
Spanish from the peninsula: ¿Tú tienes frío?
Spanish rioplatense: ¿Vos tenés frío?

English: Come here!
Spanish from the peninsula: ¡Ven acá! ()
Spanish rioplatense: ¡Vení acá! (vos)

Another characteristic that is typical in Argentina and Uruguay (but not other Latin American countries or Spain) is "yeísmo rehilado"- this is a specific way of pronouncing the letters y and ll; pronounced similar to the letter combination "sh" in English. For example, the word "playa" (beach) is pronounced as "plasha" or the word "caballo" is pronounced "cabasho". There is no confirmed theory that explains when and why this started but one of the theories is the influence of the Portuguese language from Brazil, their neighbouring country, where they have a similar sound.

See also: Using the pronoun "vos" in Latin America

Ustedes, not vosotros

The other main difference between Spanish from the peninsula and Spanish from Latin America in terms of grammar is the use of ustedes where peninsular Spanish uses vosotros ("you" plural informal). Their conjugation also varies. Despite both being used as informal pronouns, the pronoun ustedes takes the endings of the third person plural (they), it does not use the endings of vosotros. This is the same conjugation as European Spanish uses for ustedes, the only difference is that it uses it in a formal context. So to reiterate, between Spanish American and European Spanish there is no difference in the construction, just in the context they are used in. Let's see some examples:

English: Would you like a drink?
Spanish from the peninsula: ¿Vosotros queréis algo de beber?
Spanish from Latin America: ¿Ustedes quieren algo de beber?

Related article: Español peninsular

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