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Spanish Spanish?

Hi is there any advise for someone wanting to learn the Spanish spoken in Spain as apposed to Latin American Spanish?

June 11, 2018



The differences between Latin American and Peninsular Spanish are less than the differences between British and American English. I learned Latin American Spanish and I've chatted easily with people from all over the world.


That's great that you've been able to speak to Spanish speakers from all over the world. Have you been to Spain itself?


I disagree that the differences are less than the differences between British and American English. I've lived in the UK for a few months now and there's no stark difference such as having an entire conjugation (vosotros in the case of Spanish) dropped out of the language.

That said, you'll be understood and personally, I understand vosotros when I hear or read it. I just don't know how to utilize it that well. I struggled at first with dialects from Spain, but I've improved a lot.

I do wish DuoLingo taught vosotros, though. Not because I value any one dialect over another - but because I took Spanish in Ecuador and learned that you're still expected to know vosotros for grammar lessons, which my US schools never taught me because "You'll never use it here."

It was an unfair catch-up burden to place on the professors by not having been taught it. Which isn't specifically on DuoLingo, since schools did it the same way, but I'd like to see education systems work on including it so that if you do actually go to school abroad you know how to use it for the sake of school.


Your concept of "Spanish Spanish" is wrong. You should ask something like "Spanish from Madrid, Andalucía, etc." because all of them have differences, and none of them is "Spanish Spanish" in comparison with Latinamerican dialects.


Of course there are differences within Spain. However, there are some commonalities too which are more common in Spain than elsewhere such as the use of vosotros with friends instead of ustedes and the usage of some words and expressions .




I think it's basically understood when one asks questions such as these that we are not talking about areas as though they do not have regional accents or dialects.

Like, when my (non-native English-speaking) housemate asks me about American English versus English English, I realize we're not saying there's one US accent/dialect from California to New York, versus one accent/dialect in the whole United Kingdom (That would be especially silly as we live in Belfast - we're not even in England. We both know perfectly well that there are numerous dialects and accents here.)

I understand we're talking about differences like enrol/enroll, or cheque/check, or pajamas/pyjamas, tire vs. tyres, the term whilst, and other subtle language differences as taught in grammar school, some of which I'm aware of and others I am not.


I really don't think there is a whole lot of difference between the two. Especially at the level duolingo teaches.

The ones I have come across are things like in Spain they use vosotros which I believe is just like ustedes but less formal?

And Jugo vs Vumo for juice.

What differences were you finding?


And Jugo vs Vumo for juice. zumo


For the level that you can achieve with Duolingo, do use Duolingo plus 3 tips:

  • Z and c+e/i in the Central and Northenr Spain dialects sound like an English th in thanks and s can be similar (but not identical) to sh. Listen to native speakers, begin with "casa" and "caza", "gracias" or "peces".

  • Learn "vosotros" and its conjugations.

  • Learn about "leísmo".


I learned some Latin American Spanish when I was younger and I was able to get by with it on various trips to Spain. However, there are some differences. In addition to what everyone has already said, these suggestions may help you get started.

For more information about European Spanish, there are a lot of resources online.

To become more accustomed to the accents in Spain, here are a few things you can try:

  • Forvo is a great resource. You can hear how words are pronounced in various countries all over the world. You can check how a particular word is pronounced in Spain (just remember that like all countries there are various accents in different parts of the country).

  • Listen to TV shows produced in Spain. I watch them with Spanish subtitles on (netflix) but it could help you get used to the sounds even if you use the English subtitles at first. You'll hear people use vosotros as well. One of my favorites has been Gran Hotel but there are many depending on what you like. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gran_Hotel_(TV_series)

After you finish the Spanish tree and you feel more comfortable with Spanish, you can try some of the other related trees:

  • The reverse tree. English for Spanish speakers. After you become comfortable reading Spanish, the sentence discussions contain lots of comments of how things are said in various countries. The Spaniards are especially vocal about this. I always make a note of the differences for future reference.

  • If you are interested in Barcelona and Catalonia, consider learning Catalan too! In that tree, the Spanish tends to be more European Spanish.


I have the opposite problem. I keep learning words that apparently are Spain words and my Mexican wife has no idea what I'm talking about. It's not super frequently so at the end of the day I'm still learning good enough Spanish to have conversations. It's just frustrating when you've spent so much time learning a word to be told that's not the word we use. haha


Yes, I've had the same problem! I've been reading Harry Potter from a publisher in Spain. The other day someone from El Salvador told me (in Spanish), "Why do you keep saying gafas? They're called lentes." I learned gafas from Harry Potter!


This doesn't really frustrate me though because I'm used to it. I've also learned to ask which word people use for things like bookcases, pens, and so on when there seem to be lots of variations in different countries. The reverse tree has been useful for learning which words to watch out for.


My wife just informed me last night that she didn't know what gafas were and that they use lentes. Off the top of my head, for skunk they use zorrillo instead of mofeta and they don't use ducha for shower... I think they use banarse. I know there are many more.


That's funny. We got the exact same correction. So far, I haven't said anything hugely embarrassing in Spanish so far (unlike in French). No doubt, I will eventually. (I just remembered that I have said something hugely embarrassing in Spanish but I just forgot about it! It happens.)

I hadn't heard that it would be bañarse instead of ducharse. I'll have to ask about that. One difference that I just learned recently is that mono can mean cute or pretty in Spain. Mono also means monkey, so it could be an insult elsewhere.


How similar has Portuguese been to Spanish? Does studying both at the same time help you or hurt you? I've been reluctant to start other languages thinking I might just get confused.


Portuguese is very similar to Spanish in many ways and that has helped me more than hurt me. The biggest difference for me has been pronunciation. If you want to try it, I highly recommend youtube videos on the Portuguese alphabet and either Brazilian or European Portuguese pronunciation.

I've been to Brazil a couple times. The first time I just asked if people spoke Spanish (such as in a hotel). Usually they did and I was able to communicate what I needed the few times that I wasn't with my Brazilian friends. Before the last trip, I did a bit of Duolingo Portuguese before and during the trip, but didn't finish the tree before I returned. On the trip, I was able to converse simply (maybe A1) right away. I no doubt made a lot of mistakes but most people are kind.

Other than my Spanish tutor (often just chatting for an hour), I wasn't studying Spanish during the same time period that I did the Portuguese tree. I also watched movies in Portuguese with Portuguese subtitles rather than watching in Spanish.

I've spoken a little bit of Spanish since I was a child but only got serious about it a couple years ago. I think it helps if you have a fairly good base in one language before starting another. It probably wouldn't be a good idea for a beginner in both Spanish and Portuguese to start them at the same time.

I also focus on one language at a time unless I'm doing laddering (such as French from Spanish). I finished the Portuguese tree before going back to the Spanish tree and English for Spanish speakers tree.


LaCasaDelToros. I'm going to jump in here, and suggest that you try doing Portuguese through Spanish instead of English. I think laddering Portuguese (and Italian, if you choose to do it eventually) helps to point out the differences between the languages. You could do it with French also, but that is quite different from the other romance languages, in my opinion, both grammatically and in terms of vocabulary.


It's a good suggestion and worth a try. I tried that last year but found it to be a little too difficult for me at the time as my grammar skills in Spanish are still a work in progress. So, I decided to to the reverse tree first to improve my grammar, then will try laddering Portuguese from Spanish again the next time I choose to focus on Portuguese.


I learned 'gafas' as Latin American Spanish and 'anteojos' as from Spain. This is the first time I've heard 'lentes.' Guess the dialects have more variances than anticipated XD


I've had the same problem when communicating with my ESL students. I've taught them new words for things in Spanish because I look the word up in either Spanishdict or Google translate, and it comes up with words they don't know. Usually, what they use is the fourth or fifth listed selection in list of possible translations. This is usually for concrete things, like green beans, peas, etc. And they tell me I speak rather formally.


That's good to know because I'm just starting to consider teaching ESL myself. I'll have my first class on it later this week.

Have you tried wordreference? I find it to be more reliable and useful than either Google translate or Spanishdict. It lists which words are common in which countries and regions.



A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish is a book that I've found useful for learning differences in usage in various parts of the world. It's a bit expensive but it's been a real lifesaver more than once. https://www.amazon.com/New-Reference-Grammar-Modern-Spanish/dp/1444137697


Thanks. I'll add that to my list of references for my students (and for myself). It's much more comprehensive. Google is a bit quicker to get to, though, and lots of my students use it on their phones to communicate in English. I usually spend part of one session showing them the pitfalls of what otherwise is a pretty decent resource in the Spanish/English pair. (su is almost always translated as your, could be his or her, don't always pick the first word, etc.)


I keep a tab open to wordreference almost all the time!


Google "notes in Spanish" and listen to the free podcasts. The quality is good, they are progressive and they are free. They are done by an English expat and his Madrileña wife.

Learn Spanish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.