I'm just starting to learn Spanish and I have a great difficulty distinguishing between the Castilian Spanish (the one spoken primarily in Spain) and the Latin American Spanish. Is there any way to distinguish between these?

Google Translate doesn't allow you to specify the region (you can only choose Spanish) and same goes for other translators. If I type in: 'ear,' I get 'oído' and 'oreja' and there's no way for me to know which one is more common in Spain.

Even most dictionaries I've seen do not distinguish between Castilian and Latin American Spanish, but maybe I don't know what to look for...

Can anyone help me with this conundrum, share some tips and pointers? I would like to move to Spain one day so it's quite important for me that I do not learn the Latin American Spanish words which some Spaniards find confusing. Many thanks! :)

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    Hi Peter, welcome to the site, and I hope you're enjoying learning Spanish! One resource that you can use to check whether or not words have regional origins (and a resource that can be very useful in general) is the Diccionario de la lengua española, available for free online from the Real Academia Española at dle.rae.es Word entries mark regionalisms with abbreviations like "Esp." (for European Spanish), "LAm." (for Latin American Spanish), "Mex." & similar (for countries like Mexico), or "EE.UU." (common among Spanish speakers en los Estados Unidos/in the USA). Jul 15, 2022 at 0:58
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    For example, here is the entry for "troca" (a word for "pickup truck" that is extremely distinctive to Mexican Spanish speakers, some Central Americans, and Mexican-Americans in the U.S.): dle.rae.es/troca?m=form (notice that the word is marked "EE.UU., Méx. y Nic."). "Camioneta" is unmarked, and will be widely used and understood in Europe as well as in Latin America: dle.rae.es/camioneta Jul 15, 2022 at 1:05
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    Oído vs. oreja is not a matter of dialect as far as I know; the oreja is the outer ear and the oído is the inner ear. So, for example, you would taparte los oídos if you expect a loud noise, but you would grab someone by the oreja. Jul 15, 2022 at 8:39
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    You're asking about wording differences between Spain and Latin America. But there are significant differences in wording among Latin American countries, as well. For example, the words for "pig", "straw" and "jacket" vary between Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Spain. Viewing Latin American Spanish as uniform and consistent, to be packaged together for comparison with Spain, is overly simplistic and prone to error. Jul 17, 2022 at 13:14
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    @KefSchecter: not saying both words mean the same, but taparse las orejas is very common. Jul 17, 2022 at 14:54

6 Answers 6


There is not a single version of Spanish that is "correct", not even inside Spain, and there is no "Latin American Spanish". The US is accustomed to Mexican Spanish, which is very different from "South American Spanish", and in South America there are many different versions of Spanish. Even in the same country, you travel 1000 kilometers and there is a different accent, and different words. That may happen even in different neighborhoods of the same city.

What is an innocent word in one country is a dirty slur in a neighboring one.

But most Spanish speaking people understand the other versions, and are accustomed to different accents. At worst, you will be asked what the meaning of that word is, because it also happens to Spanish speakers themselves when they speak with distant Spanish speakers.

You will not be looked down on for speaking another version, or not having a perfect accent.

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    There is Spanish from Spain that has definite characteristics that no other Spanish does. So your statement is slightly off.
    – Lambie
    Jul 15, 2022 at 22:00

I think you are giving too much importance to something that is initially somewhat superfluous or secondary when learning a language. Consider the same case if a Spanish speaker wants to learn English and his/her doubt is between the British and the American. I think the answer is: first learn English, the language, then worry about the differences. Here are some considerations:

  1. The concern between the two Spanish types will be completely overshadowed if you don't know how to say at least one word, whatever it is, correctly in Spanish. An example, I went with a friend from the USA in Barcelona to get a coffee. I ordered a –café con leche y un bocadillo de jamón–. He ordered the same drink, but he was hungrier, so he ordered -un de jamón y un de queso–. This mistake is the same in any Spanish, the important thing is when learning it knowing at least where the error is.
  2. If your intention is to live or travel to Spain and to be understood when speaking, a large part of the current Spanish population is made up of Latin American immigrants. This doesn't mean that everyone speaks Latin American Spanish, but most either understand all kinds of words or there will always be someone who does.
  3. I speak some languages ​​and in my case at least, it's not as important to know the local forms when I want to communicate as it's to have countless vocabulary or synonyms in general that help patch up situations. Chapelure is French for breadcrumbs, I found out the day I went to a supermarket and asked for "bread to make breaded meat".
  4. I am a Spanish speaker and I swear there are people in Spain I don't understand a word of what they say. In the same way the Spanish of Spain differs from the one of Latin America, there are also many differences in words and mainly accents between the Spanish regions. If you try to learn all the localisms before knowing the place or going there, I think you will end up without learning Spanish.
  5. My personal experience, I don't know if it counts but I add it anyway; I studied English for years, when I arrived in London everyone addressed me speaking Cockney.

Finally, I hate personal advice, but this is one. If you study Spanish and you have the opportunity to travel to Spain or a Spanish-speaking country, you will feel very bad, because you will know you have not learned anything. This is great because there is no better way to learn a language than by making mistakes in situ.


Creo que de forma resumida, estos enlaces te podrán servir de introducción.

Diferencias entre el español de España y el de Latinoamérica


Diferencias entre el español de América Latina y de España


¿En qué se diferencian el español de España y el de Latinoamérica?


Las 10 principales diferencias linguísticas entre el español de América Latina y el de España


Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

El Diccionario panhispánico de dudas (DPD) es una obra de consulta, compuesta de más de 7000 entradas, en las que se da respuesta, de forma clara y argumentada, a las dudas más habituales que plantea hoy el uso del español.

En el DPD se pueden resolver cuestiones que sean de carácter fonográfico (pronunciación, acentuación, puntuación, grafías, etc.), morfológico (plurales, femeninos, formas de la conjugación, etc.), sintáctico (problemas de construcción y régimen, concordancia, leísmo, dequeísmo, etc.) o lexicosemántico (impropiedades léxicas, calcos semánticos censurables, neologismos y extranjerismos o topónimos y gentilicios de grafía dudosa o vacilante).


...el Diccionario panhispánico de dudas trata de orientar al lector para que pueda discernir, entre usos divergentes, cuáles pertenecen al español estándar (la lengua general culta) y cuáles están marcados geográfica o socioculturalmente.


Use a text corpus. For example, Araneum Hispanicum from the Aranea corpora. (Note the full version needs a (free) registration; I will give links to the smaller open version, but for less frequent words, you should definitely use the bigger version).

We will use the fact that Iberian Spanish on the Web tends to be more concentrated in the .es domain and the Latin American one elsewhere.

So, to find the frequency of say lindo in Iberian Spanish, construct the query to include only the results from the .es domain like this:

[lemma="lindo"] within <doc tld="es"/>

and see 333 occurrences (2.75 ppm)

and from everywhere else (we can exploit the fact that all the relevant country TLDs are two letter long):

[lemma="lindo"] within <doc tld=".."/> within <doc tld!="es|eu"/>

and this gives you 673 occurrences (5.6 ppm); i.e. lindo is about twice as common in Latin America (repeat for guapo to see the difference). For better results, you might want to explicitly enumerate the TLDs of Latin American countries (since there are of course also results from various other, mostly European countries); or get a frequency of TLDs and calculate manually, this has an added benefit of immediately noticing if the word is somehow country-specific.

Note the corpus is lemmatized; thus searching for lemma, if you prefer, you can repeat the queries with [word="linda"] to restrict yourself to feminine singular.


Please bear in mind: oído and oreja are both used in Spain and everywhere else, I daresay. This is not a good example of a difference between varieties of Spanish. oído externo, interno and medio. Inner ear, outer ear and middle ear. But if a person has stick out ears, that's orejas. Your dog could have floppy ears: orejas caídas. :)

Also bear in mind that the main grammatical/grammar structures are the same in Spain and LA. Vocabulary is just not that big an issue. It is much harder to learn Se lo dije [I told him/her [some thing] than to learn: la guagua (bus in PR and the Canary Islands) or autobus (Spain).

My advice is to learn to speak a particular brand of Spanish, as you seem to be doing. Try to follow a formal course that is gradually more difficult and introduces things gradually. If you try to take everything in all at once before you are comfortable with some basic patterns, you will not progress very fast.

Watch movies in Spanish. Read in Spanish (later, because beginners can't read books in another language).

The biggest difference re Spain and the other places is the use of vosotros in the personal pronouns, which is really not used anywhere else. Also, the pronunciation of the th.

The next biggest difference is the voseo from Argentina, Uruguay and Chile (somewhat) and other areas in LA. I'll leave you to read about that: voseo in Latin America. The verbs can be daunting. I am an interpreter and can understand everything an Argentinian says to me but I personally don't use these forms. However, were I to go live in Argentina for a year, I would probably pick them up.

If you are just beginning don't try and sort this out completely; you'll lose valuable learning time. Go to Netflix and watch the Bank Heist: that is Spanish from Spain. There are many movies/series from Spain. Can't remember all of them. A truly wonderful one is: El ministerio del tiempo on Prime Video. Entirely in Spanish from Spain.

Also, a series about teenagers in Colombia Then, watch La Chica del Flow (Colombia).

You can search for movies by country. There are a lot of Mexican soaps, and some from Argentina. There is a lot of street slang in the soaps, some of which people do use in everyday speech.

Turn on closed captions so you can see what they are saying because as a beginner you will not catch everything. On the other hand, don't worry about getting every single thing. The idea is to immerse oneself in the language.

Most of all: learn the regular verbs by heart (ar, er, and ir endings in the infinitive) and the most useful irregular ones such as ir, venir, estar, ser, etc.

Don't worry about the differences in vocabulary. Here's the thing about that: the most useful a word everyday usage, the more likely it is to differ from one country to another. The more sophisticated the overall speech as regards formality, the more likely it is to be the same in all countries at higher registers. It's words like beans or bus that are different from one country to another. [joke]. In Spain, beans are habichuelas, in Mexico they are frijoles (and elsewhere too).

And most of all, don't think you can build Rome in a day. To speak a language, especially well, takes at least five years if you are coming to it cold, even if you go and live in a Spanish-speaking country (the best way to learn it by the way).

¡ Buena suerte!


One of the main resources to view, consult and study the words used in Latinoamérica (Hispanoamérica) is the Diccionario de americanismos, that is presented as

El Diccionario de americanismos constituye un repertorio léxico que pretende recoger todas las palabras propias del español de América. Contiene 70 000 voces, lexemas complejos, frases y locuciones y un total de 120 000 acepciones.

It's an online and free dictionary, very easy to use. On each of its terms, you can view the country or countries where it is used.

An example:


Bo:O. Establecimiento estatal para recluir y rehabilitar a menores de edad que han cometido un delito. delinc.

Bo., in this example, is refered to Bolivia.

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