Different types of Spanish...Different countries, social classes, etc.

Though not a Spanish speaker I can usually tell the difference in the accents of professional or upper class Mexicans as opposed to working class. The upper class accent seems somehow closer to the Spanish heard in Spain, which itself seems even more European, somehow. The intonation and rhythm of European Spanish seem closer to, say, Italian, than to those of Spanish as it is usually heard in the American Southwest.

My impressions were somewhat vague to begin with, but now they’ve been made even more so. Last night on NPR I heard a story about how the recent oil spills are affecting the livelihoods of Galician fishermen. When interviewed, these fishermen and their families sounded more Mexican than Spanish. So it made me wonder if North American Spanish is for some reason traceable to the Spanish of Galicia? Is the character of one’s Spanish affected more by economic class than by the country one lives in? Could someone sort all this out for me? Barring the obvious influence of American English, which I understand has lent a number of words, how does Mexican Spanish vary from Spanish Spanish? Vocabulary? Grammer?

No offence, but I’m inclined to think you were imagining things a bit. AFAIK there is no particular link between Galician Spanish and North American Spanish. It’s always been my understanding that Andalucian Spanish is the closest to that spoken in the New World, the stated reason being that most of the early explorers/ settlers were from that region. (Hopefully someone will correct me on this if I’m wrong.)

Galicians’ first language (or dialect, if you prefer) is not in fact Spanish at all but Gallego, which is more closely related to Portuguese - a quick glance at a map should demonstrate why.

As for your last question, the most obvious (to me) differences between Mexican and standard (Castillian) Spanish are as follows:

  1. Mexicans do not use the vosotros (second/plural/informal) tense; Spaniards do
  2. Mexicans pronounce soft “c” as /s/, Spaniards pronounce it as /T/;
  3. Mexicans pronounce “ll” as /j/; in Spain there’s a slight /l/ before that sound.

I’m not sure what the link is, but AFAIK, Catalan (or Cataluyan?) is a dialect spoken in the East of Spain, but I don’t know how close it is to standard Spanish.

Wasn’t/isn’t Catalan a separate language?


Spanish is my first language, and I have travelled to most countries in Central/South America–one of these I will get to Uruguay. I also lived in Spain for 2 years. This is what I hear, if you take Madrid spanish as the base, then maybe Colombia is closest in accent.

Galicia? No single accent comes to mind. But there is also a galician language, which is very similar in tone and accent to portuguese.

Catalan is also a separate language, sort of like a french version of spanish, in words not in accent.

If you really want to hear Spanish that sounds like Italian listen to argentinians.

A final observation, I think the mexican accent has more to do with the native indian languages of the area than anything else.

Catalan hasn’t got anything to do with Castillian, Gallego or Mexican Spanish. It isn’t a dialect either, it’s another language (although it is like Spanish).

There is an enormous amount of regional variation within Latin America in spoken Spanish.

This site has a lot of information on regional dialects.

This page of the site mentions the Andalusian connection, although the author considers this to be a relatively minor influence throughout Latin America as a whole. However, the Caribbean region (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, and others) had more direct contact longer with the mother country and is perhaps more similar to Andalusian because of it.

This page discussed Mexican Spanish specifically. It mentions that the Spanish of Mexico City is closer to Castilian than many other places in Latin America.

Social class influences the form of Spanish spoken in Latin America to a certain extent, in that more educated speakers are more apt to speak something closer to the standard form. (It’s the same in English - in New York, for example, lower economic classes are more likely to have a thick Brooklynese accent and upper classes speak more standard English.)

KarmaComa, Catalan is not a dialect of Spanish, but is essentially a different language - virtually as different from Spanish as Portuguese is.

Leaving aside other languages spoken in Spain, Spanish spoken in Spain has a huge range of accents from Galicia and Asturias, to the central plains where the accent is most “standard” to Extremadura and Andalucía and Valencia and Cataluña and the Canaries, all with their very distinct accents.

Having said that, accents in Spanish-speaking America are also totally different and very distinct from each other. So, the answer is that if you find any similarity it just means you do not know them well.

BTW, Castillian Spanish as spoken in central Castile is probably the flattest and less rhythmic of all. It pretty much lacks the intonation that make other varieties sound more musical.

Expanding a bit more, vocabulary changes a lot between Spanish Spanish and American Spanish and even from one country to another in Spanish America. To a Spaniard, Mexican Spanish has, besides the obvious accent, a lot of native words and a lot of Spanglish. Puerto Rican Spanish sounds just plain 8awful* to Spanish ears because it is totally corrupted by English in a bad sort of way. Argentinian and Uruguayan Spanish have a very distinct pronunciation. In general, as you move south there is less corruption of the language by English influence.

BTW, I was in DC when the spill happened and I read about it and forgot about it. I am now in Madrid and I am shocked by the magnitude of the disaster and the huge effort going into cleaning the mess and the disater it has been for the regio and its people. The ongoing cleanup is major news every day and it is saddening to see thousands of people dressed in special suits, wearing masks and picking the stuff up with their hands because there is just o other way. When I hear the tallies of how much has already been collected, I realize the magnitude of the work being done. The rest of the world has already forgotten about this but for the people of the region it is a calamity which will affect their lives for a long time to come.

Accents in Mexico are extremely variable, both regionally and socially.

Regional accents can be noticeable even within a very small area. The people in the town just 10 miles from here have a distinct pronunciation on many common words. My niece, who lives in our town but has gone through school in the other town has a very noticeable accent. Then within the same state of Jalisco there many different accents. The people in Guadalajara sound quite different from those here on the coast, a distance of only 180 miles.

Social distinctions are easily discernible in Guadalajara. Many kids of the middle/upper classes (los juniors) are said to hablar fresa which is something like speaking preppy.

I live on the border (El Paso, Cd, Juarez), and here we have a lot of distinctions based on class and background, from “fresas”, to very informal dialects with a lot of Native American vocabulary - some even are bilingual Spanish-Tarahumara (Rara-Muri) speakers…and that’s just on the Mexican side.

When I worked in a gift shop some time ago, many of our customers were wealthy visitors from Mexico - who did their shopping on the U.S. Some had accents which I, a Chicano guy, had never heard before - very clipped Spaniard sounding accents. The salient feature is the way the ‘s’ is pronounced, it seemed rather “mushy” rather than crisp.

Sometimes I would ask where they were visiting from, and would be surprised to hear they were just from Chihuahua or Durango and not from another nation.

The stereotypical local Chihuahuan accent is sort of twangy, nasal, and the “Ch” sound is often more “sh”, like “osho” for 8.
That’s a lot like some Mexican-American dialects too. Up in New Mexico they still use a lot of words that are extinct in other dialects.

I hope this contributes a little. I’m not a native Spanish speaker, so I can really tell when someone speaks differently than what I’m accustomed to. I can even use my wife’s immediate family as they seem to scale the range of social classes in Mexico. I can only fairly use my wife, below, as my standard, since I live with her and her manner of speaking is that to which I’m most accustomed (similarly, if you’re from Boston I’ll think you talk funnily).

Dad: grew up dirt poor, and didn’t finish elementary school; he’s ranchero and so speaks. For the most part he speaks rather clearly; the most notable difference is he’s prone to slur the ends of “-ado” words, such that “congelado” comes out “congelau.”

Mom: similar circumstances with less education. Speaks clearly, but is prone to say things like “rumpido” instead of “roto” (“broked” instead of “broken”). His accent is often kind of like the Mexicans sound on Speedy Gonzalez cartoons, but maybe not as strong.

Wife: well, for this exercise is the standard. Aside from her first seven years of life living on Manzanillo beach, she’s a product of La Salle from elementary through university, and I hear her correct a lot of Spanish grammar. I imagine her normal speech would be some type of “standard Guanajuato Spanish.” Early life started dirt poor, so she has first hand experience living lower class as well as upper class. She’s a dentist.

Oldest Brother: similar to my wife, and speaks very clearly and understandable. Didn’t start the private schools until intermediate school, and got his medical degree at a government school.

Next two sisters: Don’t seem to speak as finely as the two older brothers, but weren’t as dedicated in school. One came out a dentist and works for the state. The other sells Mary K cosmetics. They remember a couple of years of not living so nicely.

Next brother and sister: born into a wealthy home. The sister speaks very clearly and on the snobbish side (accountant). The (baby) brother qualifies as “un junior” in every respect. He speaks very clearly and educatedly when he needs to, but normally kind of “fresa.”

In Leon in general the people speak clearly, with the credit definitely going to the younger generation. At normal neighborhood stores and restaurants you can really tell the difference in the clarity of speaking among the generations, but at the more upscale places everyone speaks clearly and well, even the older.

In the Federal District, it seems to be a random mismash of whoever you run into. But the movies I’ve seen filmed there are easy enough to follow.

In Cd. Juarez, everyone speaks about as fast as the Cubans and I lose them. (generalization)

In Cuba, everyone speaks fast and seems to clip the ends of their words. (generalization)

I don’t know what the deal with the Pueto Ricans is – they sound like they have potatoes in their mouths. (generalization)

When I hear myself recorded in Spanish, well, I sound gringo to say the least. But at least I’m fluid and understandable.

The news from Mexico and Florida is pretty clear, but probably for the same reasons most of our news is accent-less regardless of where you are.

One of the soap operas from Columbia has everyone speaking really well, but with Columbian vocabulary. But a “real” Columbian friend-of-my-wife speaks bien rapido and everything comes out sounding like sh----. I don’t mean the expletive, but the sound: “Vamosh a irsh a la tiendash.”

Ive only seen a couple of Spanish-from-Spain movies, and they sound cute and understandable, but distinctly different.

My wife says that when the Olympics were in Spain, all of the coverage in Spanish disappointed her because it was, for her, some crappy non-standard Spanish that was difficult to understand, and she felt the coverage should have been in “Standard Spanish” (whatever that is).

You’ve got that right, although it is more true in Havana than the rest of the island. You’ll find this same clipping of words in Andalucia, Spain and in the Canary Islands.

I am not native in Spanish, but having lived there for three years, with a girld friend with degree in filology, Spanish and English, I hope i can give some more insight.

  • Spaniards look at ‘los sudacos’ (derrogatory for South Americans) in about the same way upper class Brits look at their American cousins, i.e. destroying the fine language and talking with a strange dialect.
  • There are a great number of words that differ. More so, I think, than between American and Brittish English. Car is coche in Spain, carro in S. America. Puerco is pig in S.A., but almost only used as an insult in Spain. They call in cerdo when refering to the meat.
  • The Spanish c and z are not lisped. The sound is the same as the English [th]. In S.A. it’s mostly treated as an [s]. BTW, the toughest word I had to learn was swimming-pool: piscina - [piss-thina].
  • As others have written, there are a number of dialects of Castillian in Spain. In Andalucia, it’s drawled, the way southeners in the US drawl. All s-sounds are totally missing. The delicious Andalucian dish gazpacho is pronounces [gah-pacho]. ‘I’d like a beer’ comes out as [damme una her-ve-ha].

Antonio banderas changed his own dialect when moving to the US. He’s from a suburb of Málaga and spoke tha Andalucian dialect. The Spaniards laugh at him now, since he adopted a Mexican dialect.

Anything else you want to know - just ask.

It is. It’s also alive and well, so “wasn’t” isn’t necessary. It is closely related to Occitan (and actually some linguists consider it is an Occitan language, though I believe that now it’s classified as a separate language), not to Spanish.

No offense to our Puerto Rican friends, but the Caribbean dialects of Spanish - which includes Panamanian - are among the most difficult to understand for someone familiar with more standard Spanish. The endings of words tend to be dropped, as does “s” in any position; estos becomes ehtoh. In Panama at least in words ending in “-ado” the “d” is dropped and the “o” is nasalized; venado becomes venaõ. In the back country, even some of my Panamanian friends can have trouble understanding the locals.

Personally, I find the Andean forms of Spanish - in Ecuador and Peru - the clearest and easiest to understand.

I heard carro a lot in Cd. Juarez (northern Mexico), but typically hear coche in Leon and on TV. As per cerdo I usually hear it in reference to animals, and puerco for the meat.

But isn’t that a lisp? Anytime I refer to a Spaniard lithping is for taking the perfectly good s-sound and making it a th-sound. In Mexico it’s said (non-lisping) more like “piss-ina”, like saying athucar instead of azucar, or cothina instead of cocina?

If that’s not lisping, I want to know what is so I can make fun of something else! :slight_smile: