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Varieties of Spanish

Spanish is the official language of 22 countries and is spoken by around 500 million people throughout the world and by 350 milliion as their first language.

People in Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Spain, Guatemala, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Venezuela all speak Spanish!

Since the language is spoken by so many people in so many countries it is not surprising that it has developed in different ways. The classic division is usually made between Spanish from Spain -- Castilian Spanish -- and Spanish from South America. There are, however, variations of Spanish between regions and countries.

Variations are not so extreme that speakers from different countries or regions cannot understand among themselves. On the contrary, nowadays, due to the increased use of the internet and other media, Spanish speakers are more used than ever to the different accents and dialects from all around the Spanish speaking world.

Speakers from different countries can communicate as easily as diverse English speakers can and the main difference lies in spoken rather than written Spanish. Accents differ and areas have developed their own slang or colloquialisms. These dfifferences are not huge and can be learned as you need them and are comparable to the type of English spoken in Britain, the United States or New Zealand for example.

The most noticeable difference between varieties of Spanish is in the pronunciation of the letters 'c' and 'z'. They can be proncounced in two different ways -- like the "th" in English words such as 'thing' or like an 's'. The fomer is used in Castilian Spanish while the latter tends to be used in the south of Spain including the Canary islands and all countries in Latin America. So words like 'gracias' or 'zapato' can be pronounced in two different ways, although both are correct.

Slang words and colloquial Spanish can differ a lot between regions. For example, the word for 'mate' in Spanish is 'colega' wheras in Argentina it is 'pata', in chile it is 'socio', in Mexico and Uruguay it is 'compadre', while in Panama it is 'monchi'!

A common misconception that arises from having different varieties of Spanish is that one is better than the rest. All varieties are correct! From a practical point of view, a student may choose to learn with a tutor from the country they are planning to visit for example, to help get used to the accent of the area.

Students often worry too much about the nationality of their tutor with many worried that they may pick-up an accent they don't really want. If you're a beginner, however, the accent you'll have will be that of your mother tongue! That is you'll speak Spanish with an English accent, French accent etc. If you're lucky enough to live or visit a Spanish speaking country for an extended period then you'll gradually acquire the accent spoken there.

At The Spanish Machine, we have tutors from all over the Spanish speaking world. They are trained to teach standard educated Spanish which is understood wherever you go. If you do need to learn a specific variety of Spanish then we can make sure you are allocated a tutor from that area.

If your pronunciation and grammar are good, you will be understood no matter where you are.

Que onda? Chevere, pasta.... Know your Spanish slang!