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As a non-native speaker, I have no more difficulty conversing with a Mexican than a Spaniard or Venezuelan or Colombian or vice versa. I realize there are regional variations and differences in verbs, word choice, and accents, but how big are those differences?

Concerning word choice and idioms, what percentage of all words typically used in one country would be understood by other countries? And would this be much more different between Spain and countries in the Americas than between various countries within the same hemisphere?

Concerning verbs and pronouns, do differences between vos, tu, ustedes, and vosotros make conversation difficult or awkward among people from different regions?

Do different accents like the Spanish 'z' and 'c' or the Argentinian 'y' make words difficult to understand, or is the meaning usually or always clear?

Are any particular regions particularly difficult to understand to outsiders?


Como un hablante no nativo, no tengo más dificultad conversando con un mexicano que con un español o venezolano o colombiano o viceversa. Entiendo que hay variaciones y diferencias regionales en verbos, elección de palabras y acentos, pero ¿qué tan grandes son esas diferencias?

Respecto a la elección de palabras y modismos, ¿qué porcentaje de palabras normalmente usadas en un país serán entendidas en otros países? ¿Y esto será mucho más diferente entre España y los países en las Américas que entre los países del mismo hemisferio?

Respecto a los verbos y pronombres, ¿hacen las diferencias entre 'vos', 'tu', 'ustedes' y 'vosotros' la conversación difícil o incómoda entre gente de regiones diferentes?

¿Los acentos como la 'z' y 'c' españolas o la 'y' argentina hacen las palabras difíciles de entender, o el significado está normalmente o siempre claro?

¿Existe alguna región en concreto particularmente difícil de entender para los extranjeros?

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3  
Not only in the grammar and vocabulary but also in pronunciation. For instance the Latin American pronunciation of words like "casar/cazar" or "abrasar/abrazar" can lead to confusion in Spain. But native speakers can usually detect the meaning in the context. And if not you can always ask. –  Javi Mar 28 '12 at 10:53
    
Good comment. I will add that to the question, although I think you are right that different accents are usually understood. –  Rachel Mar 28 '12 at 12:14
    
It is hard for me to know precisely what is being asked here. There may be a good question (or several) here, but this reads like "Lets discuss all regional differences" which isn't a good fit for the Q&A format. I also see several related, but distinct, questions. I wonder if you might be able to narrow down your question a bit to make it a bit more concrete and easier to provide a specific answer. Perhaps multiple questions are called for. –  Flimzy Mar 28 '12 at 19:43
    
Really the question is, how much is the same between regions and how much is different? Do the differences cause problems with communication? I'm not asking for a discussion of what the differences are, just whether or not there are commonly differences that hinder communication. –  Rachel Mar 29 '12 at 3:08

6 Answers 6

up vote 14 down vote accepted

There are a couple of really good answers above but still...

Do you understand the British English? I guess you do. For us, is the same. I'm argentinian and I can talk fluenty with almost anyone who speaks any "version" of Spanish.

Yes, there a lot of words which have no meaning or a totally different meaning in different countries, but we do detect when a tricky word appear and understand the meaning by context (or just ask!).

A really good example (and very useful if you'll travel): in Spain people say "coger" for saying "grab or take something". "Coge a esa muchacha" means "take the hand of the lady (for maybe lead her)". In Argentina, we say "coger" to say "fuck" (literally fuck). So, in Argentina, if you say "Coge a esa muchacha" you'll be in a really big mess.

Another example: yesterday I was talking with a german girl, who learned Spain spanish. So, when the food was in the table she said "que aproveche" which is a spanish (from Spain) way to say "enjoy your food". But, in Argentina we say "provecho". Yet we totally understood her.

In terms of pronunctiation, yes it could be more difficult. But, the real problem appers when you talk with a (how can I say it?) "really uneducated" person, I mean almost analphabet.

It's just practice. Practice, practice, practice ;)

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I read my answer again and I decided explain a little bit: if a spanish guy says Coge a esa muchacha I'll understand what is he meaning, but because he's spanish, and I do know the differences between the argentinian expresion and the spanish one. –  AirieFenix Mar 28 '12 at 19:07
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Just an extra note as it's not really an answer. The reason that almost all regional differences in Spanish are generally understood by everyone is most probably because of the media. Everyone watches TV these days or talks to people on the internet, so exposure to other country's regional differences is much higher in todays modern society than it has been in the past. Same reason that English speakers can easily understand English from America/England/etc. –  Kage Mar 29 '12 at 0:50
    
I don't see spanish TV shows at all. Yes, I browse spanish websites but not frequently. In the other hand, I watch a lot of north-american TV shows –  AirieFenix Mar 30 '12 at 14:08

There's a really funny video about this...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xyp7xt-ygy0

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Another example to add to the existing ones.

I run a Spanish Club and we have members from almost every Spanish speaking country there is, and also non-natives that have learned in every different country. When we converse, there is never any difficulty in understanding each other.

Some people use vos and some respond without vos and the conversations just goes on normally.

Often there are situations where someone says something that makes others laugh because of the difference in meaning, but the intentional meaning is always understood.

Of course this is not great proof as these people are more exposed to other Spanish speakers from different regions so they are more accustomed to the differences.

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This may not really be considered "an answer". You've got better ones up there... Is just to tell my experience.

I can tell for sure that there are big differences in the name of foods and dishes. That makes sense, though, since is something usually very local.

I am Spaniard, and I came to New York to perform an internship in a non-profit organization that is very linked to the Hispanic community in the Upper Manhattan. My boss was Puerto Rican, and my coworker was born in New York, but from a Dominican family (so all of them spoke Spanish perfectly).

In one occasion, my coworker was going to buy something in a grocery store nearby and she asked me if I wanted her to get me something. I felt like having some pork rinds (the snack) so I said... "Eeer... Ok, could you please bring me some "Tostones"?". I gave her a couple of bucks and she left. She came back with deep fried plantains. I immediately saw what had happened, and I laughed. When I explained that what I actually wanted were pork rinds, she said "But you said Tostones... What you're talking about are Chicharrones!". Well... In Spain we don't usually eat fried plantains (as far as I know) and we don't call the pork rinds "Chicharrones" but "cortezas de cerdo" (much closer to the English "pork rind") or just "cortezas".

Also, the "coger" thing mentioned in one of the replies above is very useful... You really should be careful with that!

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3  
Good example to make a point. –  AirieFenix Mar 28 '12 at 19:01

Can't give you hard stats, but think about the regional differences like the differences between American English and British English. I am able to understand most of what latin american say, either because I know the meaning they are giving to the word or I can infer easily the meaning. The cases in which I do not understand a word are very few (mostly, words that the root is not spanish or english).

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Using vos or ustedes in Spain would make the conversation "different" (but never awkward) as is not the typical way of talking to someone , but no one would have any problem understanding the conversation.

There's no problem as far as you use standard Spanish words (as you have used in your question). You can find some problems handling a conversation if you use slang words from a certain region, in another one where they don't know that expression/word, but I guess that this happens in every language.

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