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Spain vs Latin America – Where to brush up on your Spanish?

Posted: 31st August 2018 08:53

With an estimated 400-450 million people having Spanish as their mother tongue, it is the world’s second most spoken language and an official language in 21 countries across Europe, South America, Central America, The Caribbean and Africa. An important language in business, culture and communication, choosing to learn Spanish could be the best decision you’ve ever made. Similar to any language, to truly get a good grasp of it you need to live where Spanish is spoken and immerse yourself completely in the surrounding culture, but when this beautiful romance language is spoken in so many countries the question is: Where should you learn Spanish?

Spain

Spanish, or Castilian to be more precise, originated in the Castile region of Spain and is now the official language of Spain. From siestas to fiestas, studying Spanish in Spain is always a fun and rewarding choice. Whether you want to study near the beaches of Andalusia, the vibrant cities of Barcelona or Madrid, or head to the northern regions of Galicia and the Basque Country, there is something to suit all tastes. What is so fantastic about Spain is how every region differs, from food to fiestas every place has its own customs and traditions and whenever you study you should embrace the local culture. In the south you’ll find the stereotypical Spanish culture of paella and flamenco whereas in the north expect octopus and gaitas (a Spanish variation on the bagpipe). Within Spain the accent varies from region to region; the Andalusian accent, particular that of Cadiz, is considered more difficult to understand whilst Salamanca is where one of the purest forms of the Spanish is believed to be spoken. And if you fancy picking up a new language, in the regions of Catalonia, The Basque Country and Galicia, regional languages share official status alongside Castilian Spanish.

Latin America

Latin America is a fascinating continent, one that has been attracting students and backpackers for years with its intriguing ruins from ancient civilisations, stunning landscapes and captivating cities. Choosing to study in Latin America will give you the chance to experience things from a different perspective, where you can discover the origins of tango in Buenos Aires, walk amongst the colourful buildings of Cartagena in Colombia or indulge in delicious Andean cuisine in Peru. African, North American, European and Indigenous influences have shaped daily life in Latin America from the language to the food, making the region a real melting pot of cultures. The Spanish spoken across the region also varies substantially from country to country: Colombia is considered to be one of the clearer accents to understand, while the accent in Chile is thought to be more challenging for foreigners. The heavy Italian influences in Argentina make their accent more akin to a variety of Italian rather than Spanish and in some regions across South America the indigenous communities continue to speak their native language.

Language Matters

Choosing where you go to learn Spanish will ultimately affect the way you speak the language. While mastering the differences between European Spanish and Latin American Spanish may not be as challenging as understanding the contrasts between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, it’s still worth noticing some of the peculiarities. Easily the most recognisable difference between the two varieties of Spanish is the pronunciation of the ‘z’ and ‘c’  sounds, while in the majority of Spain it is pronounced ‘th’ in Latin America you’ll hear a ‘s’ sound instead. Other dissimilarities include the use of ‘vos’ instead of ‘tu’ and ‘ustedes’ for ‘vosotros’ in Latin America. One of the biggest issues to get to grasps with is often down to colloquial language, idiomatic expressions and vocabulary which varies enough from city to city let alone continent to continent. It is impossible to memorise every single word and ultimately when learning Spanish abroad, you’ll soon get into a rhythm of knowing of when to use each word or expression and in which situation. Saying that, if you memorise only one difference make it the following: In Spain the verb ‘coger’ meaning ‘to take’ is used all the time, whereas in South America ‘coger’ means ‘to f**k’ – so take my advice, if in doubt just use ‘tomar’ and save that awkward and embarrassing moment of asking,‘¿cogemos un taxi?’

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