How is Latin American Spanish Different?

There is a far bigger difference between the Spanish that is spoken in Spain and Latin American Spanish than exists between British and American English. The Spanish from Spain has some very different grammar, vocabulary and slang to that which is spoken in Latin America. Latin Americans differentiate the Spanish they speak by calling it Castellano and by referring to Spanish from Spain as Español.

Grammar is undoubtedly the biggest difference that we can see between the two types of Spanish. Let’s take a look at how Latin American Spanish would conjugate the verb to want – querer.

I want Yo quiero
You want Tu quieres
He/She wants El/Ella quiere
We want Nosotros queremos
They want Ellos quieren
You (plural) want Ustedes quieren

As you can see in English the verb form only changes when we use “he” or “she”, but in Spanish there are many different conjugations. As if this were not complicated enough, Spanish Spanish adds another possible subject into the equation. In Spanish the formal second person is usted and the informal is tú. In Latin America the plural of you is ustedes and there is no familiar plural form, but in Spain they use vosotros as the plural familiar form.

For example to ask: “Would you like to eat pizza?” using the familiar form in Spain and Latin America would be the same: “Quieres comer pizza?” as would the formal version “Usted quiere comer pizza?

When we switch to the plural form of you then Español and Castellano differ. In Spain you could ask “Quereis comer pizza?” or “Queren comer pizza?”, but in Latin America the first form is simply not used. What this means as a Spanish language learner is that you must learn another verb conjugation to go with vosotros.

When to Use Tú and Usted
All Spanish speakers use both tú and usted, but between Europe and Latin America there is a difference between when they are used. Tú is the familiar form of “you” and is used among friends and subordinates and usted is used to show respect. In Latin America it is common to hear children using the usted form with their parents, even as adults. Sometimes you may even hear spouses referring to each other as usted. In contrast, in Spain the use of tú is much more common.

Between Spanish and Castellano there are several vocabulary differences that can cause a headache to language learners. Fortunately most Spanish speakers will know what you are talking about even if you use the word that is not common in that particular region. Here are a few examples of common words that are different between Spain and Latin America.

Español (Spanish) Castellano (Latin America) English
ordenador computadora computer
coche carro car
melocotón durazno peach
aguacate palta avocado

Accent and Pronunciation

Spaniards sometimes sound like they have a lisp since they pronounce soft “c” as a “th”. For example Barcelona is said as “Bar-the-lona” by a Spanish native. This pronunciation is not used at all in Latin America. That said there are huge accent differences between Latin American countries also. In Argentina the Spanish double L “ll” is pronounced differently to other South American nations. Accent differences between Spanish speakers are similar to those experienced between British, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, Indian and United States English speakers.


There are vast regional differences between the slang that is used in Spanish, not only between Spain and Latin America, but also between Latin American countries. It should also be noted that some words that are considered mild and completely acceptable in polite company are considered very rude in other countries.

While there are some major differences between continental Spanish and the Spanish spoken in Latin America. A good grasp of either will allow you to communicate effectively in any Spanish speaking region.

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