Did you know there are multiple Spanish dialects? If you read our introduction to Spanish dialects, you are well-versed in the many regional and country-based Spanish accents that exist across the globe. You might even know how they each sound unique. One focus for many of us during the pandemic has been to learn Spanish at home. Many of us are taking online Spanish lessons to brush up on our Spanish accent. So, how do you choose which Spanish accent to practice?
- Spain Spanish accents
- The Mexican Spanish accent
- Chilean Spanish accent
- Which Spanish accent is the best?
Start your 7-day free trial
Spain Spanish accents
Spain is where the Spanish language originated from. Spain is the site of the Real Academia Española (RAE), a cultural institution dedicated to regulating the Spanish language amongst Spanish speakers around the globe.
A feature of the Spanish accent from Spain is a breathy /th/ noise called ceceo for the Spain Spanish C and Z sound. You can hear an audible difference between casar (ca-SAR) to get married and cazar (ca-THAR) to go hunting. In Latin America, the C, Z, and S noises are all pronounced as /s/. The ceceo may sound endearing to some, while others may find it unclear. It all depends on preference.
On one hand, the accent from Spain is arguably the correct Spanish accent. On the other hand, it’s been centuries since Spain had the monopoly on Spanish linguistics or even the majority of the world’s Spanish speakers.
The Mexican Spanish accent
Mexican Spanish has evolved since declaring independence from Spain in 1810. Over the past 200+ years, perhaps the most obvious grammar change is dropping the vosotros (plural you) form of verb conjugation. If you are short on time or don’t have a head for grammar, perhaps learning the Mexican Spanish accent could save you time. Otherwise, Mexican Spanish follows the same basic rules as other Spanish-speaking countries.
We know that since post-colonial times, the Spanish accent has developed in each country and region it was impressed upon. Today, you can tell a person’s country of origin by listening to their Spanish accent. Remember when we shared our tricks for guessing where Spanish speakers are from?
Chilean Spanish accent
Spanish from Chile is famously different from the standard version. There are a lot of Chilean words that you won’t find in RAE canon. For this reason, some people call “Chileno” the hardest version of Spanish to learn.
It’s also known to have unclear pronunciations. This includes dropping the last –s and turning a final –ado into –ao by ignoring the d. If you stay the night in someone’s house, your host may ask if you want to go to sleep. You can answer Gracia-, estoy cansa-o.
Just because the Chilean Spanish accent isn’t standard, doesn’t mean it’s not the best. I may be biased, but I think it’s one of the coolest-sounding accents on earth. If you go to Valparaíso, Chile to study abroad and learn Spanish, you certainly should focus on the Chilean accent. Plus it’s recognizable. Use a hip Chilean slang word anywhere else in the world and you’ve got an instant conversation starter.
Which Spanish accent is the best?
As you’ve guessed by now, the phrase ‘best Spanish accent’ is subjective. In general discussion, ‘best’ usually means an accent that is clearly spoken, with proper annunciation, and easily understood across the Spanish-speaking world.
Some people claim that for these reasons, Colombia has the best Spanish accent. Others say that Peru and Ecuador have the best Spanish accent. The Mexican Spanish accent as heard during football games or news programs is easily understandable. Still, others argue that Spain’s Spanish accent is the best for being the point of historic origin.
In truth, there is no consensus. As I mention in our blog on the best way to learn Spanish, the journey to fluency is all about being able to communicate.
After you choose which Spanish to learn, you can make progress from there. If you avoid common pronunciation mistakes in Spanish, you will be successful in your language learning journey. Remember, the main goal of learning Spanish is to be able to speak and understand. There isn’t much use for value judgements beyond that point. In a globalized world, the best Spanish accent is a fluent one. Full stop.
Start your 7-day free trial
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.