The Spanish of Latin America

door Regina Coeli

Spanish is an official language in no less than 21 countries, most of which are located in Central and South America. It is not surprising that Spanish sounds a little different on the American continent than it does in Spain, just like English differs from continent to continent; after all, the English spoken by Londoners is very different to the English spoken by Texans. How big are the differences in Spanish? Do you have to learn other things when you need Spanish for Spain than for Latin America?

Starting with the last question, if you want to learn Spanish as a foreign language, you do not have to take differences into account at first. Learn standard Spanish and you can make yourself understood throughout the Spanish-speaking world. More than 392 million people speak Spanish, so it is certainly worth the effort. You may have to get used to an accent here and there, but that is also the case with other languages! If you often go to Latin America, you will get to know the differences. 

A few important differences between the Spanish of Spain and that of Latin America

1. In Latin America the more informal vosotros (the plural form of you) is not used. South Americans only use the formal ustedes.

2. In Spain, the ‘z’ is pronounced like the English ‘th’, in South America like an ‘s’.

3. In Latin America, a number of words from old Spanish are still used, such as:

  • allá instead of allí (there)
  • acá instead of aquí (here)

4. A number of words differ from continent to continent. See the table below.

Spanish in Spain   Spanish in Latin-America   English
el coche   el carro   the car
el ordenador   la computadora 
  the computer
el móvil    el celular    the mobile / cell phone
el billete 
  el boleto    the ticket
la patata 
  la papa    the potato
  enojarse   to become angry
conducir    manejar    to drive/steer 


There are also words that differ from country to country:

When answering the phone:

  • ¿Diga? – España
  • ¿Aló? – Honduras, Perú, Venezuela, Argentina y Chile
  • ¿Bueno? – México
  • ¿Hola? – Argentina


  • ¡Estupendo! – España
  • ¡Padre! – México
  • ¡Pura vida! – Costa Rica
  • ¡Chévere! – Venezuela
  • ¡Bárbaro! – Argentina


  • Camarero – España
  • Mozo – Argentina, Paraguay y Uruguay
  • Garzón – Chile
  • Mesero – Centro América

A bite / an appetizer

  • tapa – España
  • picoteo – Chile
  • botana o antojitos – México
  • picadita – Argentina
  • picadera – Puerto Rico
  • pasapalo – Venezuela


Italian influences in Argentina

Argentina had large influxes of Italian immigrants in the past. That is why Argentinian Spanish differs more from standard Spanish than any other Latin American country, but you can still get by just fine with standard Spanish in Argentina.

Here are a few noticeable features of Argentinian Spanish:

  • The ‘ll’ and ‘y’ are pronounced in Spanish as a ‘y’ but in Argentina as ‘zje’.
  • The word che is used to attract attention.
  • Tú is not used. Argentinians say vos. This comes from old Spanish. A lot of words are conjugated with vos. That is why the Argentinians say vos sos instead of tú eres. Vos sos is also used in other Latin American countries.


Get used to the various Spanish accents

At Language Institute Regina Coeli, Spanish language training is provided by language trainers from every corner of Spain, as well as Central and South America—that way you can get used to different Spanish accents. As a student, you generally have a team of four language trainers who work with you to achieve your personal learning goals.

Would you like to learn Spanish for Spain or Latin America? Come and talk to one of our Spanish language trainers. He or she will discuss your options based on your current level, wishes and goals. Contact us.

Share this page

Are you interested in language and career?

Just leave your email address with us and we will be happy to keep you informed.