How is Spanglish grammatically different from Spanish

That sounds like Spanish to me

But that seems Spanish to me now: ¿Qué pedo, güey?[1], ¿Cómo estás, tío?[2], ¿Qué onda, boludo?[3]

If Columbus hadn't lost his way back then, who knows what kind of Spanish they would speak in India today. Even so, Spanish can sometimes appear to be Spanish, depending on which of the around 20 countries you are in, spread across four continents, in which Spanish is an official language or a recognized minority language.[4]

Spanish here and there

Roughly speaking, the Spanish language can be divided into a European and a Latin American variant. At the latest in the course of "Independencia" From the colonial power of Spain a good 200 years ago, the Spanish spoken in the New World began to develop independently of its European "mother tongue". So it came about that a large number of them arrived in Latin America "Regionalismos“Emerged: regional expressions of the language in the newly formed countries.

Basically, the Spanish that we usually think of first differs phonetically and grammatically from its “offshoots” across the pond. In addition, there are a number of idiomatic differences, such as we know them from the varieties of the German language, for example.[5]

All of these subtleties and differences will be discussed in more detail in this small blog entry.

Is that now an "s", "c" or even a "z"?

This is the question one can ask when listening to Latin American Spanish. Unlike European Spanish, this does not distinguish phonetically between these three letters if they are in front of the vowels “e”, “i” or “u”. In European Spanish, on the other hand, “c” and “z” are pronounced like the English “th” before the three vowels mentioned. This lack of phonetic distinction can also lead to spelling difficulties for some speakers.[6]

At the Río de la Plata, another phonetic variant has developed: In Argentina and Uruguay, “y” and “ll” are pronounced like a German “sch” instead of a “j” before vowels. In addition, there are regions of Argentina in which the "r" before vowels is spoken roughly like a German "rsch".

Make five out of six

If you use six personal pronouns in Spain, there are only five in Latin America. The actually formal “Ustedes” is used there in both the second and third person plural, similar to the English “you”. There is also a considerable difference in the use of times; in most countries the past tense is used (almost) exclusively and the perfect tense is almost never used; similar to American or British English.

An example of a “regionalismo” is the so-called “voseo”. This is mainly spoken in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, but also in some other countries in South and Central America. So the second person singular is not “tu” but “vos”.[7] The accentuation is usually different: “vos manejás” instead of “tu manejas”.

Spanish Babylon?

As already mentioned, over the centuries after the arrival of the first “Spanish” explorer, a Spanish in the old world and a Spanish in the new world developed.[8] In order to show the resulting idiomatic differences, the example used in the previous section for “voseo” can be used. “Manejar” is usually understood to mean “drive (car)” on the other side of the pond, which in Spain is expressed as “conducir”. In Spain, on the other hand, “manejar” would primarily be understood as “managing (a company)”.

Further examples from the technical field are the terms for “mobile phone”, “computer” and “car”: “móvil”, “ordenador” and “coche” in Spain are called “celu (lar)”, “compu” in most Latin American countries (tadora) ”and“ carro ”or“ auto (móvil) ”. There are also different terms for an everyday object, the pen, which is perhaps no longer used as often: “bolígrafo” in Spain, “lápiz” in Chile and “lapicera” in Argentina.

And the various indigenous groups on the continent have also ensured that, despite a common language, people may still not understand each other's first word. "Choclo", which means "corn", comes from Quechua, the language of the Inca, who mainly lived in today's Peru. This is used in most South American countries instead of the usual “maíz”. The term “palta” also comes from the language of the Inca Empire. It is used instead of “aguacate”, the usual word for “avocado”. To round off the Andean culinary excursion: “Beans” are called “porotos” in South America, which comes from Quechua. In Spain, however, they are called “judías” and in North and Central America “frijoles”.

Nahuatl, native to Mexico and spoken by the Aztecs, has also left its mark. In Mexico, for example, a “market” is called a “tianguis”. Usually this is “mercado” in Spanish. The already mentioned word for avocado comes from the Nahuatl as well as the Spanish name for “chewing gum”: “chicle”.

For the sake of completeness, it should also be mentioned that there are still enough examples from the non-quotable area. For the sake of clarity, however, these will not be discussed in more detail here.

But if you are in a hurry, simply research the “classic” online: “coger” and its use in Spain or Latin America.

And for the very inquisitive as a little bonus and proof that such ambiguities also occur in Latin America: “concha” and the different meanings in Argentina and Mexico. It is best to imagine a situation at the table with representatives from both countries, who only know the meaning of the word in their respective countries. Buen provecho[9]

You also speak Taíno and Nahuatl - did you know?

Although the indigenous peoples in the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America have almost disappeared, there are still one or the other word that reminds of them not only in Spanish.

The word “maize”, in Spanish “maíz”, has its roots in the Taíno, which is native to Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, among others.

And the following terms from the Aztec language have made it beyond the borders of Mexico and the Spanish language: guacamole, mezcal, chocolate and tomato.

Once in Genoa and back

In addition to words from the indigenous languages, words from other European countries have found their way into the local Spanish as a result of migration.

In Chile, thanks to the German immigrants, you can still have a "cake" for dessert today.[10] to order. In the south of the country a very special feature has developed: “Launa German” or “Lagoon German”.[11] To put it simply, this is a fusion of German and Spanish words similar to the "Spanglish" that can be found especially in the USA.[12]

In Chile's neighboring country Argentina, one can again notice a strong influence of Italian. You can order a “birra” instead of the usual “cerveza” and get the desired barley juice without any problems. To express how great one thinks someone or something, one likes to say “sos un grosso” or “qué grosso”. Furthermore, the fans of the world-famous football club CA Boca Juniors refer to themselves as “xeneizes”. This is due to the fact that the club is based in the port of Buenos Aires, La Boca. Many Genoese ("xeneizes" in their dialect) found a new home there.[13]

And so we would be back to the very beginning of the story ...

We look forward to your comments, questions, and suggestions: neoni [at]



[1] Mexican for: "What's up, dude?", A slang phrase to greet you

[2] Spanish for: "What's up, dude?", A slang phrase to greet you

[3] Argentinian for: "What's up, dude?", A slang phrase to greet you

[4] Africa (North and Sub-Saharan Africa), America (North, Central and South America), Asia (Southeast Asia) and Europe

[5] Here in Switzerland, for example, not only school children deserve holidays, but also those who work. In order to have a vacation as a Swiss, you have to join the military.

[6] But there are also areas in the south of Spain where this phonetic distinction does not take place either.

[7] Consequently, “you are” then means “vos sos” and not “tu eres”.

[8] Columbus himself was known to be Genoese and therefore not a native Spanish speaker.

[9] "Bon appetit" in Spanish

[10] Is pronounced like the German "Kutschen"

[11] For those interested, here is an article in Spanish on this:

[12] Another such amalgamation of German in Latin America is also in Brazil: the so-called "Riograndenser Hunsrückisch" or "Hunsriqueano riograndense", which is spoken mainly in Rio Grande do Sul and is a fusion of Portuguese and German. For those interested, here are two articles in Portuguese: 2903147

[13] A curiosity on the side: the colors of the club can be traced back to the colors of Sweden. When the club was founded, a ship sailing under the Swedish flag is said to have anchored in the port. Our world was globalized more than a hundred years ago.