Spanish is conquering the world and is here to stay! With more than 500 million native speakers (with the number growing every second), it’s the fourth most spoken language in the world including non-native speakers. So, it’s safe to say that learning Spanish will open a new world of opportunities and experiences, and will give you access to more than 20 countries worldwide. Like any other language, Spanish is super diverse because of its accents, pronunciations, vocabulary, and expressions that can vary greatly depending on the region or country; therefore, you need to take into account that there are about 13 types of Spanish spread over 3 continents.
But don’t worry, it is not as confusing as it sounds! Here, we’ll briefly explain all the different types of Spanish so you can learn more about each and notice the differences between them. Remember: they all speak Spanish, but not in the same way.
Spanish in Europe
Spain: Peninsular Spanish
There are essentially four major types of Spanish (or “dialects”) across Spain, which is, of course, the motherland of the language and where it originated centuries ago. Spain has approximately 47 million native speakers, however, nowadays there are other countries with a larger population where Spanish is also spoken.
Considered the most popular and “pure” Spanish, Castilian is the dialect you usually hear in music or movies made in Spain. It’s spoken in the northern and central parts of the country and it’s distinguished, among many things, by its extra set of verb conjugations because of their use of vosotros as a second personal plural pronoun.
Get to know how the Castilian Spanish sounds here.
Spoken in the southern part of the country, Andalusian is the second most popular Spanish dialect in Spain after Castilian. It’s distinguished by its fluid and smooth sound, the ceceo/seseo, and the consonantal weakening because they neutralize some distinctive sounds (commonly referred to as the “Spanish lisp”).
Want to know how the Andalusian sounds? Check it out here.
Spoken in the Autonomous Region of the Community of Murcia located at the southwest of Spain. It’s similar to Andalusian Spanish and so, it’s quite rare to find someone speaking unless you especially travel to that region.
Murcian sounds like this.
Specifically spoken in the Canary Islands, this dialect is similar to Caribbean and Andalusian Spanish because of its location. They don’t use the “Spanish lisp” of the vosotros form. It’s also influenced by the Portuguese because Portugal tried to colonize the island some time ago.
Get to know how the Canarian sounds in this video.
A particular and unusual mix of Andalusian Spanish and British English as the country is a British overseas territory. It’s essentially the same as its neighboring areas in Spain but with the particularity of code-switching with English, so it’s sort of a Spanglish, known as Llanito.
This is how the Llanito sounds.
Spanish in Africa
Guinea Ecuatorial is the only African country where Spanish is officially spoken because they were once a Spanish colony. Their dialect has a unique set of influences composed of the regional languages of natives, and of French, Portuguese and German. It sounds more like the Spanish spoken in Spain than the ones spoken in The Americas. It’s distinguished by the use of the preposition en instead of a.
If you want to hear how the Equatoguinean Spanish sounds, check it out here.
Spanish in The Americas
From the USA to Argentina: Latin American Spanish
Officially spoken by more than 400 million people, Latin American Spanish broadly refers to the Spanish spoken by the majority of Central and South American countries, plus Mexico and the USA. With all its regional variations, this type of Spanish differs a lot from European and African Spanish; so, the difference is essentially like talking about British vs. American English.
Check out this video about Latin American Spanish vs. European Spanish.
Spoken in the southern part of The Americas: Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and East Bolivia. The predominant difference between this dialect and other Latin American dialects is the intonation, which is more similar to Italian than to Spanish per se due to the immigration wave of the 19th century. They also use “sh” instead of a “y” sound for the letter “ll”.
Want to hear how Rioplatense Spanish sounds? Check it out here.
This type of Spanish is spoken in Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Panama, Caribbean Colombia, and Caribbean Mexico, and Gulf Coast Mexico. It’s characterized by the omission of certain consonants like “s”, “r”, “d”, and “b” in the middle or end of most words and by the swapping of some consonant sounds. This Spanish can be a bit difficult to understand, even among Spanish native speakers from other regions.
If you want to hear how the Caribbean Spanish sounds, click here.
It’s spoken in countries like Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, etc…, as well as the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, all with a shared colonial history. As the Rioplatense, they use voseo (vos) as the second person singular pronoun instead of tú, and they don’t speak as fast as Chileans or Caribbeans.
Central American sounds like this.
Spoken in the northwestern part of South America, in Colombia, Perú, Ecuador, West Bolivia, and Andean Venezuela. It’s considered one of the most “neutral” and clear Spanish dialects, so it’s easier to understand than Caribbean or Chilean, for example. It’s distinguished by a clear pronunciation of all the vowels and consonants in words, and because of it’s rhythm and slowness.
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Considered by many, including native speakers, as one of the most difficult types of Spanish to understand, Chileans speak super fast and have a lot of contractions and regionalisms, for example, they don’t usually pronounce the “s”. They also pronounce the “ch” as “sh” so they say “Shi-le” instead of “Chi-le”. The syntax and vocabulary are also quite different from all the other types of Spanish.
Want to get lost in Chilean? Check it out here.
Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, and its dialect is the one you’ll usually hear in movies and media. Mexicans speak rather slowly and clear while using a lot of slang. They have a big influence on native languages such as Nahuatl, as well as Anglicisms to some extent. Just as with the Andean-Pacific type, they use tuteo instead of voseo.
If you want to hear how Mexican sounds, check this video.
There are more than 30 million Spanish speakers in the USA, with New Mexico, southern Colorado, and Los Angeles has their particular dialect known as New Mexican Spanish. Most of its speakers are descendants of Spanish colonists who arrived between the 16th and 18th centuries. This type of Spanish borrows many words from English and indigenous American tribes.
This is how New Mexican Spanish sounds.
In reality, most Spanish speakers can understand each other if they speak more slowly and listen carefully (in the case of the ones that have more differences); but, it’s definitely useful to know these variations so you can understand them better in context and get the chance to dive deeper into the cultures within.
Check out these videos to learn more about the differences between Latin American accents:
– Latinos Are Not All The Same | Gabriel Iglesias
– Types of Spanish Accents – Joanna Rants
– Latinos Imitate Each Other’s Accents
– Which Spanish Accent Is Sexiest? Celebrity Edition
We hope that you enjoyed learning about all these types of Spanish and that you are more eager to start your language learning journey!
If you want to know more about the importance of Spanish, check our article Why learn Spanish? Six major reasons.