Many people consider Spanish as one of the most beautiful languages in the world. It is a mother tongue for 500 million people worldwide, while another 100-50 million people learn it as a second language. Spanish is becoming increasingly more popular also in Poland, which is why we would like to share with you some useful information on its varieties and dialects.
At present, Spanish is spoken by about 500-650 million people worldwide. South and Central America is obviously this continent where it is used most widely. Spanish spread there during the Spanish conquest which took place at the turn of the 16th century. As a result, the languages of South American indigenous peoples were replaced with the language of Cervantes. Spanish can now be heard also in the Philippines and Western Sahara, which is obviously the consequence of conquests which took place there. Spanish is increasingly more widely spoken also in the United States, as the Hispanic population there keeps increasing due to economic reasons. According to current estimates, Spanish is a mother tongue for as much as 15% of the US population.
Since the arrival of the first colonizers, the Spanish language has evolved in each of the countries of Latin America in a different way, leading thus to the creation of its unique varieties that can be impossible to understand for a learner of the standard Castilian language.
Different directions of the evolution of Spanish in America were subject to several phenomena: firstly, the earliest conquests were carried out mainly by Spaniards coming from the southern part of the country, e.g. from Andalusia, while Spanish taught at school and courses is based on the standard Castilian pronunciation. Moreover, during their expeditions, Spaniards were accompanied by numerous African slaves, whose pronunciation also affected the subsequent development of Spanish on the conquered territories.
Secondly, the development of Spanish in South America was greatly affected by local languages, such as Yourba, Kechua and Nauhtl.
Thirdly, as was the case with the English language in the United States, many grammatical structures and words that are no longer used in Spain itself have been preserved in South American dialects.
What can be considered now the most characteristic features of Spanish in Latin America? Definitely such elements as voseo and sesjo.
Voseo affects the grammatical structure of an utterance or statement. In South America, pronoun tú (you) is often replaced with vos, whereby the meaning of both is the same. Moreover, the usage of the second person in plural (you) is now rare, as it is increasingly more often replaced with the third person (ustedes – they).
Seseo is a phenomenon which applied to phonetics. While South American pronunciation of the sounds “s” is the same as in Polish, the Spanish one is more like the sound “th” in English (as in thank or think).
As regards lexis, there are so many differences between Castilian Spanish and South American Spanish that it is impossible to describe them all. It should be noted that despite the overwhelming dominance of Spanish in South and Central America, lots of different dialects and varieties of this language are spoken all over the continent. Inhabitants of the western part of Colombia may not be able to fully communicate with their compatriots from the north of the country, not to mention the differences between the varieties spoken by Mexicans and Cubans or Puerto Ricans and Argentineans. This should not, however, put you off learning Spanish, as it is estimated that by 2030, as much as 7.5% of the Earth’s population will communicate in this language.