5 most important differences between Spanish in Spain and Mexico
BY JOSÉ LUIS PALOS ÁVILA. YOUTUBE: CHICAGO POLYGLOT.
Hi everyone! Today we are going to analyze the 5 most important differences between Spanish in Spain and Spanish in Mexico. The 2 varieties are mutually intelligible but there are differences in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.
Why are there differences?
When the Spanish colonies which founded in Mexico, the Spanish language was undergoing some changes in Spain and the pronunciation was not homogeneous in all the regions of Spain. Therefore, it’s possible that the colonizers in Mexico were from Andalucía where there was a distinctly different pronunciation from the region of Castile.
Between Spain and Mexico there are differences in vocabulary. Different words are used to refer to the same object and different verbs are used to refer to the same action. For example, in Spain one says “conducir a coche” but in Mexico it’s “manejar a carro” (“to drive” a “car“).
Spain: Un ordenador (“computer”)
Mexico: Una computadora
Spain: Unas gafas (“glasses”)
Mexico: Unos lentes
Spain: Un bolígrafo (“pen”)
Mexico: Una pluma
Spain: Una patata (“potato”)
Mexico: Una papa
Spain: Un melocotón (“peach”)
Mexico: Un durazno
Nahuatlisms / Aztequisms
In Mexican Spanish there are also many words of Nahuatl origin. These words are identified as nahuatlisms or aztequisms. Spanish lexicon began to mix in words from Nahuatl in the 16th century when colonized the peoples of Mesoamerica.
Chapultepec: “grasshopper mountain”, from náhuatl chapolin (grasshopper) and tepetl (hill or mountain).
Animals, fruits and objects
Spain: Una lechuza / un búho (“owl”)
Mexico: Un tecolote, from náhuatl tecolotl.
Spain: Un saltamontes (“grasshopper”)
Mexico: Un chapulín, from náhuatl chapolin.
Spain: Un pavo (“turkey”)
Mexico: Un guajolote, from náhuatl huexólotl.
Spain: Un tomate (“tomato”)
Mexico: Un jitomate, from náhuatl xitomatl.
Spain: Un amigo / un tipo, un fulano (“a thing”)
Mexico: Un cuate, from náhuatl coatl (serpiente / mellizo).
Spain: Una cometa (children’s toy)
Mexico: Un papalote, from náhuatl papalotl (mariposa).
Spain: Un niño (“child”)
Mexico: Un escuincle, from náhuatl itzcuintli (perro).
Spain: Una pajilla (“straw”)
Mexico: Un popote, from náhuatl popotl (name of a dry branch).
Here are more words of Nahuatl origin in Mexican Spanish: chocolate, aguacate, chipotle, guacamole, cacahuate, chile, elote, nopal, chicle, coyote, ocelote, mapache, zopilote, tlapalería, molcajete, mecate, petaca, chapopote, achichincle, tocayo y apapachar. Do you recognize any of the words in the list?
Vosotros / Ustedes
One of the big differences between Spanish in Spain and Mexico is the use of vosotros and ustedes. In Spain vosotros/vosotras is used with a group or speak with your friends in an informal way. Ustedes is used to speak with your grandparents or with a group in a respectful or formal manner.
Spain: ¿Cuál fue el último libro que leísteis?
Mexico: ¿Cuál fue el último libro que leyeron?
Spain: ¿Sabéis a qué hora cierran la farmacia?
Mexico: ¿Saben a qué hora cierran la farmacia?
Spain: ¡Hola, chicos! ¿Cómo estáis?
Mexico: ¡Hola, chicos! ¿Cómo están?
Spain: ¿Ya os conocéis?
Mexico: ¿Ya se conocen?
Spain: ¿Cuántas veces habéis ido a la biblioteca esta semana?
Mexico: ¿Cuántas veces han ido a la biblioteca esta semana?
Pronunciation is another distinct difference between the 2 varieties of Spanish. In Spain there are 3 types of pronunciation; distinción, el seseo and el ceceo. Most of Spain uses distinción while in Mexico only seseo is used.
The letter “s” is pronounced /s/. The letters “c” and “z” are pronounced as /θ/ (“th” in the word “thing” in English). For example, the words “casa” and “caza” are pronounced as /kasa/ and /kaθa/.
The leísmo means the incorrect use of the indirect pronoun “le” when it’s used to refer to a man. The correct form to use should be the direct pronoun “lo”.
Spain: A Santiago no le vi ayer. (indirect pronoun – incorrect use)
Mexico: A Santiago no lo vi ayer. (direct pronoun – correct use)
Masculine use: A Santiago no le vi ayer.
Femenine use: A Gabriela no la vi ayer.
Plural use: A Santiago y Gabriela no los vi ayer.
Which type of Spanish should I learn?
You have just learnt the 5 most important differences between Spanish in Spain and Mexico. Now, which type of Spanish should you learn?
Learning about the differences between the 2 varieties is an enriching experience and will help you to understand the culture and the history of both countries. Best of luck with your studies!
For a great course that teaches both Mexican and Iberian (Spain) Spanish, check out our review of SpanishPod101.