Friday, June 22, 2012

Spanish Spanish

This map shows where Spanish is spoken today.  The darker the blue,
 the higher the percentage of Spanish-Speaking population.

The Spanish language is spoken in more than twenty countries across the Americas and the Caribbean in addition to its country of origin, Spain.  As a non-native speaker, it’s easy to assume that the language is pretty much the same everywhere you go.  When you think about it, though, there are significant variations in the way English is spoken just within the United States.  I am originally from Florida, and but my family moved to southwestern Virginia when I was eleven.  The thick Southern accents in my new town were so different that I found a lot of people hard to understand.

As I’ve gotten further along in my Spanish classes, I've learned that of course, Spanish is the same way.  Here in the United States, I’ve been taught Latin American Spanish.  Little emphasis is placed on the vosotros, the informal plural second person—essentially the Spanish equivalent of y’all—because it is not widely used.  At least, not widely used outside of Spain.  In Spain, it is commonplace.  So the vosotros and its corresponding verb forms are fairly unfamiliar to me, and that’s one piece of grammar I’m expecting to struggle with at first.

A Spanish tortilla!
Another way in which the Spanish language is distinct in Spain is called the seseo.  El seseo refers to how in Spain, many syllables that are spelled with s, c, or z are pronounced with what sounds like a soft th, such as in the English word “think.”  To an American, this sounds a bit like speaking with a lisp, but it is simply a part of the accent.  This means that in Spain, my name will probably be pronounced Theebley.

In addition to differences in grammar and pronunciation, vocabulary also varies between Latin America and Spain.  A word can mean two different things in each location. For instance, in Latin America, a tortilla is a flat food made of corn or flour.  In Spain, however, a tortilla is a lot closer to what we Americans would call an omelette, made with eggs and potatoes and cheese.  This Spanish tortilla sounds delicious, and I can’t wait to try it! 


  1. Dear Sibley and Amanda:
    Did you know that "Theebley" is the long lost, Spanish cousin of "Thisbe" in Shakespeare's A Midsummers Night Dream?

    Also, I understand that the best place to get a Spanish Totilla is a "TAPAS BAR". I wonder how many American boys (who did not pay attention in Spanish class) asked for the nearest other kind of BAR--that sounds like TAPAS--and only found hard boiled eggs.

    The other linquistic Latin American difference my Hispanic friends mention, is that in everyday conversation no one using the Usted form of a verb. Everything is the informal TU. Is that true in Spain today?

  2. Dear Amanda and Sibley:
    Would you write a blog comment on the importance for Spain to
    win the European soccer tournament. Elaborate on how you plan to
    attend a European football match and a bull fight in the same day.

  3. Haha, while I think the cultural aspect of bull fighting is interesting, I don't think I could watch an actual bull fight! I've seen a few pictures of the bloody and sad bulls and it makes me feel really sad. So, that part, at least, wouldn't be on my list of things to do.

    As for soccer, I don't know anything about it, but would love to see a match :)

  4. Dear Travelings Chicas:

    This may be old news to you, but please make sure to check out the
    resource from the US State Department for Americans traveling abroad:
    Also, make sure you find out the correct answer to the following question: When I am our in public in a foreign country can I carry just a photocopy of my identification papers while leaving the originals back in the room where I am staying.