The Spanish in Latin America varies from country to country and even within the countries themselves. You can check out our special pages about the Spanish spoken in different countries in Latin America. For example: Spanish spoken in Mexico, Cuba, and Argentina!
Here are a few of the major characteristics of Latin American Spanish:
VOSEO VS TUTEO
In at least some part of every Latin American country, with the exceptions of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the pronoun "vos" is used either in addition to or instead of "tú". Both mean "you".
The usage of the pronoun "vos" and its corresponding verb conjugations is known as "voseo", while the use of the pronoun "tú" and its corresponding verb conjugations is known as "tuteo".
USE OF "USTEDES" INSTEAD OF "VOSOTROS"
While Peninsular Spanish has two ways of saying "you" in plural form (such as when addressing a group; "you all"), Latin American Spanish has only one. In Spain, both "vosotros" (you all, informal) and "ustedes" (you all, formal) are used, while in Latin America "ustedes" is always used. This also goes for the corresponding verb conjugations.
WEAKENED OR LOST CONSONANTS
As is common in southern Spain, many consonants at the end of a syllable or word are either weakened or lost altogether. This is especially the case with the final "s" sound. For example: "los niños" (the children) ends up sounding more like "loh niñoh", "adios" (goodbye) sounds like "adioh" and the clause "esto es lo mismo" (this is the same) sounds more like "ehto eh lo mihmo".
In words with a "d" between two vowels, the d is often dropped so that "cansado" (tired) sounds like "cansao" and "pecado" (sin) sounds like "pecao".
You will notice this Spanish variation in the Caribbean, much of Central America, the entire Pacific coast of South America, the Rio de la Plata nations, and some areas of Mexico. The "r" is also commonly dropped from the end of verb infinitives, so that "comer" (to eat) sounds like "comé".
The letters "s", "c", and "z" are all pronounced with an "s" sound instead of the "th" common in Spain.
- "Centros" (centers) sounds like "sentros", whereas in parts of Spain it sounds like "thentros".
- "Ll" is pronounced like a "y", while in rest of Spain it is pronounced like a soft j, or like the second g in garage.
- "Te llamo" (pronounced te jamo) becomes "Te yamo"
CONFUSION BETWEEN "L" SOUND AND "R" SOUND
As in parts of southern Spain, there is a certain confusion between the "l" and "r" sounds. The "l", when placed before a consonant in a word, is often pronounced as an "r". For example, the word "alma" (soul) will often be pronounced "arma".
This is the case in the Caribbean region and in parts of Chile.
INFLUENCES - INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES, EUROPE, ETC.
From indigenous languages like Nahuatl, Mapudungun, Guaraní, and Quechua to Romance languages like Spanish, Galician, Italian, and French, Latin America is certainly a melting pot of influences.
The rich linguistic diversity found in the Americas reflects the many cultures that have called the region home over the years. While Spanish is the most widely spoken language, there are traces of indigenous, European, and even African languages in regional Latin American dialects.
A great example is Argentina, which has some 9,000 words that are spoken nowhere else. Peru has a sizeable Asian population and, over the years, many Japanese and Chinese words have found their way into the Spanish spoken there. In the future, the Spanish language is sure to continue evolving in each country as new waves of immigration and other social changes take place.