Spain colonized much of current-day Latin America. Over centuries, Spanish across the Americas has changed, evolved, and incorporated local influences. Meanwhile, Spain’s version of Castilian Spanish changed to incorporate new foods, ways of cooking, and culture. Let’s explore the many differences in Spanish in Spain vs. Mexico.
- Is Spain Spanish the same as Mexican Spanish?
- Spanish vs. Mexican pronunciation
- Spanish vs. Mexican grammar
- Spanish vs. Mexican words and vocabulary
Is Spanish in Spain the same as Mexican Spanish?
Yes and no. Think of the difference between a British English speaker and an American English speaker. English speakers hear differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and even grammar. Spain Spanish and Mexican Spanish also have differences in this way. Can a Spanish person understand a Mexican person and vice versa? Of course! Just as an American can understand a British person. As a traveler or a Spanish-language learner it’s important to be familiar with these adjustments.
Spanish vs Mexican pronunciation
If you’re watching hit Netflix shows in Spanish, like House of Cards or Elite, the first thing you may notice is the accent. The most important pronunciation difference between Spain and Mexico is the pronunciation of ceceo, /the-theo/. It might sound like a lisp. In Spain only, the Ci, Ce and Z are pronounced as a breathy /th/.
Spain: ¿Quieres una cerveza? /ther-ve-tha/ Do you want a beer?
Mexico: ¿Quieres una cerveza? /ser-ve-sa/ Do you want a beer?
Spain: Chorizo /cho-ree-tho/ Sausage
Mexico: Chorizo /cho-ree-so/ Sausage.
In Mexico, there is no distinction between the Ci, Ce, Z, and S sounds. They all sound like s /s/. This is known as the seseo /se-seo/.
Spain: Gracias. /gra-thee-as/ Thank you.
Mexico: Gracias. /gra-see-as/ Thank you.
In both Spain and Mexico, the words with Ca, Co, Cu will still be pronounced as a /k/
Spain: Comer. /komer/ To eat.
Mexico: Comer. /komer/ To eat.
Spain: Conocer. /ko-no-ther/ To know.
Mexico: Conocer. /ko-no-ser/ To know.
Notice how with conocer one word contains both sounds in Spain. Both accents and pronunciation are correct. It’s up to you to decide which one you prefer and stick to it.
Spanish vs. Mexican grammar
Spanish learners will know the difference between “tú” and “usted” forms: “tú” is informal “you” while “usted” is formal. This is used all over the Spanish-speaking world. In Spain, however, there is informal plural “you” (vosotros) and formal plural “you” (ustedes). In Mexico and Latin America, only “ustedes” is used.
Spain: ¿Vais a la fiesta? Are you (all) going to the party?
Mexico: ¿Van a la fiesta? Are you (all) going to the party?
Spain: ¿Tenéis hambre? Are you (all) hungry?
Mexico: ¿Tienen hambre? Are you (all) hungry?
It’s a bit easier to learn Mexican Spanish in this way, because you don’t have to memorize another conjugation form. “Vosotros” is never used in Mexico or Latin America. Although you can live a long and happy life in Spanish without ever using “vosotros”, it’s important to recognize when it’s used.
Spanish vs. Mexican words and vocabulary
The biggest difference between Spanish in Spain and Mexican Spanish is words and vocabulary. Everyday objects, especially food items, can have completely different words in Spain vs. Mexico. Slang also differs a lot.
English: Cell phone
English: Swimming pool
Spain: ¡Está mola!
Mexico: ¡Está chido!
English: That’s cool!
The list goes on, but as a traveler or learner of Spanish, there’s no need to worry. Most native speakers will understand both words from exposure to international media entertainment.
Choose one: Spain Spanish vs. Mexican Spanish
If you are learning Spanish, it’s best to choose what accent and vocabulary you will use based on your needs. If you’re staying or traveling in Latin America, learn Mexican Spanish. The accent will sound standard and there’s no need for “vosotros”. But if you’re moving to Spain, work on that ceceo because ¡está mola!
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Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Czech and Turkish. Her tech copywriting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.