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A good analogy is that the difference is like those in British and American English, but what are those differences exactly? Is Spanish in Latin America a branch from that in Spain?

  • Even though I am a foreigner but I can clearly differentiate between Spanish in Spain and Spanish in Latin America by their pronunciation. So, one of the differences is in pronunciation of some letters. And of course they have probably some words that is unfamiliar in Spain and visa versa. – Bakhtiyor Nov 15 '11 at 20:54
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    I think this question is way too broad to give any meaningful answer. Differences in pronunciation? Differences in words and meanings? – Juan A. Navarro Nov 15 '11 at 20:56
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    spanish in Latin America sounds cooler XD – pleasedontbelong Nov 15 '11 at 22:46
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    There are at least as many differences among the different regions of Spain and among the different regions of Latin America as there are between Spain as a whole and Latin America as a whole. And the differences and exceptions are easily enough to be the subject of a book, which is the very definition of a too-broad question for Stack Exchange. – hippietrail Nov 16 '11 at 15:55
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    Voting to reopen. I see this question as having potential for a really useful addition to our canonical questions. – aparente001 May 3 '18 at 13:35
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The analogy is essentially correct, except:

  • There are no spelling differences: only vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation
  • There is a central body for Spanish (Real Academia Española), which keeps the "official" dictionaries, covering the usage of Spanish in all the world

One thing to consider is that there are also lots of differences between different latin american countries (Spanish in Mexico vs. Uruguay), and even inside big countries (Buenos Aires vs. Córdoba), much like the differences you'd find between England vs. Australia or Texas vs. New York.

Now, what are some examples of those differences?

Vocabulary: peach is called melocotón in Spain, durazno in Latin America

Pronunciation: In Spain z is pronounced approximately like the th in thick. In Latin America, it's pronounced like s (which has the same sound as in English)

Grammar: in particular, the second person has completely different forms. For some details, read the wikipedia article about Voseo.

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    Also, certain words such as coger should NOT be used in Latin America. (Well, at least in Mexico.) They have different connotations in different locations. Similarly, taco in Spain is palabrota in Latin America. – Aarthi Nov 16 '11 at 3:07
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    There are some very few spelling differences such as Mexico vs Mejico and Texas vs Tejas. – hippietrail Nov 16 '11 at 15:52
  • Of course, there are regions in southern Spain where z and (c in ce/ci) is pronounced like s. (And AFAIK even regions in Latin America where it's pronounced as th.) Nevertheless, what you wrote is a useful generalisation. – Jonik Nov 19 '11 at 23:30
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The greatest differences are in the use of vosotros and in the pronunciation of z and the soft c.

In Latin America, the informal 2nd person plural form vosotros and all of its verb conjugations are omitted in favor of the formal 2nd person plural Uds and its verb conjugations (which match conjugations of the 3rd person plural).

Where in Latin America the soft c (in vencer) and the z (in concozco) make a sound equivalent to the 's', in Spain, they sound closer to our English th (as in thin)

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  • Spain Spanish uses a lot the past perfect while Latin American uses more the simple past. Example: Ya me bañe (LA) -> Ya me he bañado (ES). – razpeitia Nov 16 '11 at 5:11
  • I believe there may be places in Spain that also go without vosotros and that there are places in Spain that don't have the th sound. But I'mm not 100% sure on that. – hippietrail Dec 2 '11 at 11:41
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There are lots of differences, and that's ignoring the variations inside Latin America. However, there are no spelling distinctions.

The most important differences lie the pronunciation of s, c (before e or i) and z. In Spain, z and c are pronounced /θ/ (like English th in think), while s is an alveolar /s/ (like English s, but slightly closer to sh /ʃ/). In Latin American, all three are pronounced /s/, and it's a slightly more dental s (just a bit closer to English th). This is called seseo, and it's also common in some parts of Spain.

A native Spaniard can correct me on this, but I believe ll and y (before a vowel) can be pronounced /ʎ/ and /j/ respectively (the first is a palatal version of l, the second sounds sort of like and English y), while in Latin America they are pronounced the same and can range from /ʝ/ (palatal fricative) to /j/ (again, like English y) to /ʃ/ in places like Argentina and Uruguay. This pronunciation is called yeísmo.

Again, someone while lives in Spain can tell me if this is right: the verb and pronoun forms for the second person plural are also different. While in Spanish the conjugations are vosotros amáis, vosotros teméis, vosotros partís, in Latin America it's ustedes aman, ustedes temen, ustedes parten, like the third person plural.

Aside from those, there are very many vocabulary and idiomatic distinctions, too many to list here. Wikipedia has a list of Spanish dialects. Also, remember that there are a lot of variations, both inside Spain and in America. On of the most notable, for example, is voseo: the replacement, in Argentina and Uruguay, of the seoncd person singular pronoun for vos and its verbal forms.

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