Spanish-Spanish or Mexican-Spanish ?
I was thinking of trying to learn Spanish (now I'm at Level 9 in French and German) but a comment I read on a discussion here has made me stop to think. Is the Spanish here appropriate to use in Spain? That's where I'd use it. Not in the US or Mexico or South America. I'm hoping the French here is not too obviously Canadian, and the German not overtly Brazilian/Namibian. Would my Spanish be American if I learned it here?
What do you mean by "appropriate" to use in Spain? I'm not an expert and I'm not yet fluent myself, so it's just my opinion, but I think people are attaching way too much importance to regional differences within languages. There are many Latin Americans in Spain and many Spaniards immigrating/vacationing in Latin America and they communicate with each other just as British and American (and other) English speakers communicate with each other when they meet. The Spanish aren't going to kick you out of their country or be rude to you because you don't speak exactly like them, and if you aquire fluency in "American Spanish" you'll understand and be understood. What's important is you learn the language. If you want to learn to mimic a Spanish accent and pronunciation then you can worry about that later and/or when you're there. Chances are that no matter what you're going to sound like a person who learned it as a second language anyway.
You can also watch movies and listen to music or audiobooks out of Spain so you can get used to hearing it in their accent and with their pronunciation while you use DuoLingo.
They speak 3-4-5 different versions of Spanish in Spain itself! If you learn Spanish here you'll be fine anywhere, and anywhere you go people will know you are not a native Spanish speaker. If you want to see/hear/learn European Spanish you can check out "La Vida Loca" on the BBC languages web site.
I think IG88 has a really good point and rspreng is absolutely right.
I would say that the Spanish here is clearly Latin American, with some localisms from Mexico. That said I would say that the accent is the least of your problems.
In my opinion, learning a good grammar, which is common to a very much extent should be your aim, if you are starting (which I assume you are). Probably the main issue you will encounter is the c pronunciation and some others. Regarding vocabulary, there will be some differences (lemon being of the most shocking ones among the people here, I guess)
If you keep to the basics and get different Spanish inputs you'll be aware of different pronunciations, tones and the like and, in my opinion, that's mostly for your own good than the natives you may encounter. Spanish, as English has great differences from one place to another but native speakers get by anyway so don't you worry, you'll be understood.
I must say that I don't believe there is only one right way of doing things in languages, but many to do it wrong. Many people will defend that their way is the best way, but I would go to the official institution. That's what it is for. As long as you learn from a proper source, with a proper backup, you'll do fine.
You mention you're most likely to use your Spanish in Spain. Well, for one, in the last 15 years there has been a massive emigration from Latin America, so you will find and hear Latin American voices in Spain and for other, Spanish speakers have grown more used to listening to it, so they are better equipped.
Spain is a big melee of accents and localisms, as UK English is. There is no Spanish from Spain, besides certain points, surely not a different language. There is the "Standard" Spanish that you learn in the School, spoken on TV and somewhat spread through Cervantes Institute http://www.cervantes.es/imagenes/File/guias/guia_ic_2009-ingles-aus.pdf, which is not cheap. In my opinion, a standard is the best thing to learn and I make the effort to speak it.
If your interest in Spain or the Spanish is more than the language itself, (even then) you will need way more than Duolingo, so don't you worry. You will pick differences as you go :)
Just get exposed to it and it'll be all right
Thank you for these thoughtful replies. I learned German (some decades ago) through the Goethe Institute (German government) and acquired a very posh German accent (so I'm told). Then I spent some time learning French with Michel Thomas (on his CDs, a totally audio course) and learned to speak French with a Polish-American accent (and am now getting to grips with the spelling). So I've seen the gold standard and the brass one.
I wouldn't be worried about which 'Spanish' you're learning when you're a beginner. And once you have the basics and get to grips with the language itself you can then focus on studying the language as it is spoken in your ideal location, like an area of Spain.
I learnt the basics in school and had imitated a Spain accent for a few years, before moving to Argentina and studying in university in Buenos Aires. My accent changed to an imitation Argentinean accent in less than 3 months and in the space of a year I had picked up a lot of local vocabulary (for many everyday things and also strictly colloquial stuff). Now I'm living across the border in Chile, and everything is completely different again. My Argentinean Spanish does nothing for me here, even though they are both 'Latin American' Spanish. So I'm going about picking up Chilean Spanish. But what I mean to say is that, there is no one 'Spain' Spanish, nor is there one American Spanish. Grammar between the two (and within the two) geographical areas differs slightly, (nothing that isn't mutually understandable) as does vocabulary.
Just jump in and starting learning the basics which you will need before you can think about focusing on one dialect. And like IG88 and rspreng said, it doesn't really matter if you don't have an exclusive Spanish dialect- natives are going to realise that you are not native and cut you some slack . Just make sure you have the appropriate level of formality when addressing someone and you will have no problems (for example in Chile I'm called by usted by everyone at work, plus all strangers I come across, not matter what age).
Also, depending on which part of Spain you are planning to use your Spanish, you may find that the particular area has some similarities with an American version, due to the immigration to the Americas from the 1500s. For example Andalusian and Canarian Spanish have various similarities with American Spanish (particularly Argentinean Spanish).
But good luck with learning the language, whichever dialect you end up speaking. Personally I am a fan of neutral Latin American grammar (tu and ustedes) and prefer the pronunciation in various Latin American countries over that of Spain. For me Peruvian Spanish is the easiest to understand as they speak very well and articulate the sounds well.
I don't think there will be much difference. What really makes a difference is the accent, which you will get when you come to Spain. However, I really find Mexican, Colombian and Argentinian accents very sexy in girls.