Difference between Spanish Accents: How to Choose the Right One?

For an exhaustive explanation of the difference between Spanish accents, we’d need to write a whole book; today, we’ll only be helping you choose which one you should learn. You see, Spanish is spoken in quite a few countries (21 officially), all with different accents and different word usage. Not only that, but all of these countries have different accents depending on the region of the speakers.

Don’t let that discourage you… English is worse, and we’re (mostly) fine with the variety of our accents. Not only is British English very different from American English (not to mention Nigerian English!), but the English spoken in Texas is different from the one spoken in Washington.
It’s the same with Spanish, although one language, there is variety within it. And depending on your wants, needs and personal taste, and before going too far in your studies of this beautiful language, you may want to choose the right Spanish accent for you.

Here’s an overview of some the difference between Spanish accents, and a little help for helping you choose the right one.


Spanish accents

The difference between Spanish accents in different countries

In order to choose the right Spanish accent, let’s have a look at the difference between Spanish accents found around the world (highlighted in the below map).

Variedades principales del español - By Hidra92 - Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7142304

By Hidra92 – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7142304

 

However, bear in mind that some characteristics found in some countries can be found in other countries and that all Spanish-speaking countries have various accents across their country.

Argentina

Argentinian Spanish uses voseo. Voseo is an older form of (you) which has different, although not very, verb endings than tú; it is similar to having a country still using the old English ‘thee’.
It is also easily recognizable for its pronunciation of the double ‘ll’ which is normally pronounced as ‘y’ (as in ‘yes’) in the rest of Spanish-speaking countries. For example, llover (to rain) is usually pronounced ‘yover’ in most Spanish-speaking countries, in Argentina, however, it’s pronounced ‘shover’.

You can get a taste of the Argentinean accent, watching the video below:

Having trouble remembering llover? Picture a woman kissing her lover (llover) in the rain. For more tips like this, you can read our article about the tricks you can use to memorize words.

Spain

Considered by many to be the easiest to understand for learners because of its clear pronunciation, Castilian (here referring to the Spanish accent used in central and northern Spain) pronounces the letter ‘z’ and the ‘ci’/’ce’ combination as we do with the English ‘th’ (as in ‘thanks’), the same is used when saying a word which ends with the letter ‘d’. Another characteristic of Castilian is its use of vosotros, which is the informal form of ustedes. Watch the video below to hear a clip with Spanish accents.

Mexico

Mexican Spanish is easily recognizable because of how it marks a tone at the end of the last word of every phrase (a bit – but not exactly – like when asking a question), and because of how it reduces accentuation on certain vowels. It is a much more melodious form of Castilian Spanish and is a fairly easy form of Spanish to learn.  In what is considered standard pronunciation in Mexico, ‘s’ becomes ‘z’ before a voiced consonant (e.g. “es lo peor” becomes “ezlo peor”). Watch the video below for a clip with the Mexican accent.

 

Colombia

Saying that someone has a Colombian accent isn’t being the least specific, as Colombia has quite a few different Spanish accents, however, the one seen on TV is considered to be an easy accent to learn for beginners because it is quite neutral. In particular the accent from Bogota. It is a very understandable accent even for those from other countries (Telenovelas have probably contributed to this), and it is due to this ability of being easily understood in many Spanish-speaking countries that it can be a good choice for many. To watch a video with the Colombian accent, have a look at the clip below.

Cuba

The Cuban accent doesn’t always pronounce the ‘r’ properly, sometimes pronouncing it as an ‘l’ when at the end of a word (amor becomes amol), and sometimes, both the ‘r’ and the ‘s’ are aspirated, giving something close to an ‘h’ (largo becomes lahgo).
Watch the video below to hear a clip with Spanish accents:

 

Which Spanish accent should you choose?

Obviously, we can’t answer this question for you, but here are three questions to help you decide:

  1. Where do you live?
    The differences between Spanish accents are probably not that important if you don’t live in a place close to a Spanish-speaking country, but suppose you live in New Mexico, you probably want to learn Mexican Spanish as the probably of you meeting Mexicans is probably higher than someone living in Australia.
  2. Which one do you think will be the most useful to you?
    Are you going to study in Spain for a few years? Is your future spouse originally from Paraguay? Are there many Colombians in your neighborhood? Choose accordingly.
  3. Considering the difference between Spanish accents, which accent do you prefer?
    One – probably the only one – advantage you have over any native Spanish speakers, is that you get to choose the accent you learn. Unless you have a good reason not to, such as for work, choose one you enjoy. Why learn something you don’t like? We’re all about enjoying language learning here at MosaLingua.

Whatever accent you end up choosing, remember not to stress too much about it. In any case, you will be understood all around, and remember: the most important thing is to keep your language learning pleasant and to start to speak it whatever accent you end up choosing! And let’s finish this article with a fun video where you can find some hilarious imitations of many common accents…

¡Buen aprendizaje!

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