Assorted Accents, Structures and Styles: 9 Different Types of Spanish

Spanish comes in a wide array of regional flavors.

In other words, dialects.

But to the learner, this can sometimes seem more confusing than appealing.

Frustrated by the vast variety of Spanish accents?

Troubled by the conflicting vocab and confusing grammar?

If you’re interested in learning Spanish but also interested in traveling to a specific Spanish-speaking region, practicing a dialect is essential.

Why? Because although you might be understood, acclimatizing to other speakers’ accents, using the local lingo and using the right grammar to sound friendly will make your time with natives fruitful and fun.

Even if dialects don’t seem important to your learning journey, the evolution of language, and particularly the role of indigenous languages, is exciting and highly relevant to your understanding of even standard Spanish.

Ready for a trip around the world? Get your pens at the ready!

Learn a foreign language with videos

The Art of Practice: Bringing Different Types of Spanish to Your Routine

Finding Learning Materials

There’s a wealth of material out there to help you learn dialects. The best way to perfect a dialect is to pick it up from natives, but sometimes you need a bit of clarification. Or you want to improve when you don’t have the opportunity to spend time with natives. So, these three sets of resources will be your new best friends for learning and perfecting your dialect.

The Phrase List

Although they’re no substitute for learning words spoken by natives, a lot of phrase lists can help you hit the ground running. They’re also great to help you clarify the meaning and sentiment of phrases that you’ve heard, to avoid any misunderstanding. Phrase lists can be quite general, but larger regions may have many sub-dialects and cultures. Even on many of the Caribbean islands, phrases change meaning from one side of the island to another. Bear this in mind when trying out phrase lists.

Here are some examples of great phrase lists:

The IPA Chart

An IPA chart is your first port of call when looking at dialects. It will help you to see differences in sound and is especially useful for giving you an idea of sounds that aren’t in the English language. Its use is limited, as sounds by speakers vary, but it does help you get started. Use it to listen to new sounds and help you contrast between the different sounds of dialects, e.g., [r] vs. [R].

Videos of Natives

These are perfect for helping you perfect your accent and local style of speech. Imitate them as much as you can to reap the rewards!

Examples of dialect videos to check out:

Practicing Dialects

Once you understand the basic features of a dialect, it’s all about exposure and repetition. Try and find a native who will video-chat with you if you can’t visit the region, and use flashcards to help yourself master the vocabulary. Always keep in mind that there are variations within each dialect, and between speakers, so exercise caution, especially when using slang that might be considered rude or vulgar in some regions.

Time to get on with the good stuff!

Points of Contrast: What Makes the Different Types of Spanish Different?

Before we start, a couple of things worth defining:

A phoneme is a sound in a language that distinguishes two words from one another. For example, “p” and “b” in “pat” and “bat.” Phonemes are given using their IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbol between two forward slashes, e.g., /p/.

A phoneme can be pronounced in many different ways. The pronunciation of a phoneme is also given by an IPA symbol but it’s given in square brackets to avoid confusion: e.g., [p].


Distinción, Seseo and Ceceo

These phenomena revolve around what’s commonly known as “the Spanish lisp.”

  • In distinción, the phonemes /s/ (the same as the English “s”) and /θ/ (similar to the English “th”) are both used in the language and their pronunciations are not interchangeable. This means you’ll hear both “s” and “th” sounds in different words. This (to English ears) creates a lisp sound in some words. For example, zapato (shoe) would be pronounced [θapato]. The “s” sound is used in words like casa (house), which would be pronounced [kasa].
  • Seseo happens when /θ/ is not a phoneme or used in pronunciation, and /s/ is the phoneme used in its place. This means that zapato is pronounced [sapato] and casa is still [kasa].
  • In ceceo, instead of all of these words featuring the /s/ phoneme, they feature the /θ/ phoneme. However, its pronunciation is not quite identical to the /θ/ used in distinción, but part way between [θ] and [s]. If you’ve gotten used to the [θ] sound present in distinción regions, it will probably take you some time to correctly pronounce this one.

The best way to learn is to practice from native pronunciation, as there isn’t a widely used IPA symbol for the sound produced. However, approximates are still useful and you can use the IPA symbol /θ/ as the phoneme to represent that sound; it helps you know when to use it. So zapato would be [θapato] (with a slightly different pronunciation for /θ/) and casa would be [kaθa]. There’s a slightly snobbish attitude towards ceceo speakers in many Spanish-speaking areas; it can be considered a very “rural” way of speaking.

Follow the links on the example words in this post to hear a variety of speakers of lots of different dialects pronounce them. You’ll find examples of both of the different pronunciations, and can relate this to their region later on.

So what does this all mean for you?

To avoid homophones creating confusion, seseo and ceceo dialects often use different words for things, e.g., because caza (hunting) would be the same as casa, the word cacería (hunting) is often used instead. Look out for more of these swaps in each dialect.


Originally, the letters “ll” corresponded to /ʎ/ (a phoneme similar to our “y” sound, but produced with the tongue in contact with the roof of the mouth more) and “y” to /ʝ/ (a more powerful sound made by restricting and releasing airflow but with your tongue in the same place as /ʎ/). Yeísmo is the phenomena where both spellings correlate to the same phoneme, /ʝ/.

To complicate matters further, /ʝ/ can be pronounced as [ʝ],  [j] (similar to the English “y”), [dʒ] (similar to “dg” in English), [ʒ] (similar to “s” of “measure” in English) or [ɟʝ] (which is produced similarly to lengthening your tongue so the tip is on your teeth and saying “dya” while only moving your tongue slightly). This variation depends on the region and the phoneme’s position in the word.

Here are some examples to help you out:

  • Yate (yacht) is sometimes pronounced with [ɟʝ] (check out reality3d’s pronunciation on the linked page).
  • Ayudar (to help) is often pronounced with [dʒ] (check out wordfor’s pronunciation).
  • Yo (I) is pronounced in some regions with a [ʒ] (check out elharni’s pronunciation).

What does this mean for you?

If you’re learning, or are exposed to, a dialect featuring yeísmo, familiarize yourself with the different pronunciations in that region on an IPA chart, and then listen carefully to imitate the accents of natives.

Pronunciation of “S”

In some regions, /s/ is pronounced as a cross between [s] and [ʃ] (similar to the English “sh”).

In some dialects, it can also be pronounced [ɹ] (similar to the “r” in the English “red” by most speakers). For example, doscientos may be pronounced with an [ɹ] on the “s.” There are no examples on the linked page, but you’ll have to listen out for it if your dialect has this feature.

/s/ is also aspirated or not pronounced in many dialects.

What does this mean for you?

Be aware of the dialect’s pronunciation of “s” and then imitate as closely as possible to perfect the accent. As this can affect the meaning of words quite often, it’s worth practicing listening out for the pronunciation of “s” in your chosen dialect before talking with natives. This way, you can make sure you’ll acclimatize much quicker.

Pronunciation of “J”

The major pronunciations are [h] (aspirated) and [x] (like the “ch” in “loch”), but in regions where [x] is used, [ç] (like “sh” but with the tongue pressing your back teeth) or [χ] (a more throaty aspiration) may also be a popular pronunciation. [x] may be tricky at first. It’s produced further back in the mouth than [h] but otherwise is very similar. [χ] is somewhere between the two.

Some examples:

  • Ojos (eyes) is often pronounced with an [x] (by wordfor) and with a [χ] (by vessanessa).
  • Mujer (woman) is often pronounced with a [ç] (see Lin_linao’s pronunciation).

What does this mean for you?

Practice the version used in your target dialect by listening to natives and repeating until perfect!

Pronunciation of “Ch”

Although usually pronounced as [t͡ʃ] (similar to the English “ch”), “ch” can be pronounced as [ʃ] or even [t͡s] (like “ts” in English) in some dialects.

What does this mean for you?

Check out the IPA chart for your dialect’s version, so you have an idea of its sound, and then just copy the natives!

Pronunciation of “R”

There are many different options for “r,” including [ɾ] (this is produced with one quick movement of the tongue which quickly touches the roof of the mouth—it’s in some English dialects, so should be fairly easy to learn), [r] (this is the trilled “r,” considered one of the most difficult sounds in Spanish—here’s a video on practicing that sound), [l] (like the English “l”), [ʐ] (which is similar to “s” in “measure” but more powerful), [x] and [R] (like [r] but trilled further back in the mouth). Each dialect has its own rules and quirks regarding the pronunciation of “r”.


  • Caro (expensive) is often pronounced with a [ɾ] (like Lizandra on the linked page).
  • Perro (dog) is often pronounced with a [r] (like camilorosa’s pronunciation).

What does this mean for you?

Again, only listening will perfect this, but you can get a good idea of the rules in the dialect sections below.

Pronunciation of “N” at the End of the Word

In some dialects, the “n” at the end of a word is commonly pronounced as [ŋ], like the English “ng.” When this is part of a dialect, it’s also possible for the “n” to be dropped and the vowel before it to be nasalized.

What does this mean for you?

If the dialect you want to learn features this, listen out for it! It should be very easy to replicate, you just need to know when to use the [ŋ] or the nasalized vowels.


Different Forms of “You”

  • Tú: This is the informal version of the second person singular used in some regions. This pronoun is also used with the verb conjugation endings for vos.
  • Vos: Another informal version of the second person singular, this is used alongside in some regions and instead of it in others. In some regions, it’s used with the verb endings for  or its own verb endings.
  • Usted: This is the formal version of the second person singular, used in all regions but to a different extent. For example, Cuba and the Dominican Republic rarely use usted—the informal  is preferred, whereas Colombians would use usted for a child to address his/her parent.
  • Vosotros: In some places, this is the plural of tú. In others, the plural of  is ustedes.

What does this mean for you?

Unfortunately, to avoid sounding rude or snobbish or even just like an outsider, you’ll have to learn the forms of the dialect you want to learn and all of the scenarios in which you might use different forms. Better crack on with it!

Different Uses of Past Tense

Between Spanish dialects, there’s a difference in the use of the “present perfect” and “simple past” tenses.

Technically, the present perfect tense should be used:

  • If the time-frame includes the present moment (e.g., this year).
  • The action expressed is close to the present moment.

However, outside of Spain, this is not the case. The simple past is used in these cases instead of the present perfect.

What does this mean for you?

If past tenses aren’t your strong point, get clued up now. If you want to learn Spanish in Spain, know when the present perfect is used. Otherwise, lucky you, there’s just one tense to learn!


Each region has different slang, archaisms and loanwords. Most of the time, standard Spanish will be understood, so often it’s just a case of accumulating the local language over time as natives introduce you to local terms or you read about them in your phrase lists.

Sampling the Different Flavors of Spanish: 9 Regional Types

Mexican and US Spanish

Distinción, seseo or ceceo: Those heading south of the border will notice that Mexicans don’t make the lisping sound, as Mexico is a seseo region. This means that instead of [θ], you’ll be hearing [s] in words like casa [kasa].

Yeísmo: Yeísmo is common in Mexico, so you don’t have to worry about learning the two separate sounds. However, in some words, /ʝ/ can be pronounced as [ɟʝ]. For a recap, check reality3d’s pronunciation of yatewhich means “yacht.”

Pronunciation of “s”: Apart from in coastal areas (where it’s aspirated) “s” is pronounced as [s], which is exactly what you’d be expecting, the English “s” sound. This makes words flow much more easily than the aspirated [s] and makes Mexicans quite easy to understand.

Pronunciation of “j”: Mostly pronounced as [x], although it’s [h] in most of the south except a few regions where it’s [χ]. This is due to indigenous influence. [x] is a straightforward pronunciation to learn; it’s like the “ch” in “loch.” [h] is also just an aspiration. [χ] is a variant of [x], which means that some Mexicans will use it, some won’t, and it doesn’t affect meaning. You might, however, want to learn how to recognize it. If so, check out vessanessa’s pronunciation of ojos; the start of the second syllable is the [χ] sound.

Pronunciation of “ch”: Pronounced as [ʃ] in some parts of Mexico (so you might hear some English “sh” sounds), but mostly pronounced as [tʃ] (like the English “ch”).

Pronunciation of “r”: [r] (if at the beginning of a word or a double “r”) and [ɾ]. This means that you’ll mostly be hearing the classic Spanish “trilled r” but will occasionally hear the rarer [ɾ] sound that’s also in English. To help you learn these, Camilorosa’s perro (for [r]) and Lizandra’s caro work as classic examples.

Pronunciation of “n” at the end of the word: Pronounced as [n], which means that there’s no nasalization in Mexican Spanish. All words will end as expected, even if they end in an “n.”

Form of “you” used: with the normal verb endings for this pronoun. Usted is also used widely. This means you only have two sets of pronouns and verb endings to learn!

Interesting linguistic features:

  • Diminutives are used often to show affection for something.
  • Mexican media features a highly exaggerated speech style as a form of comedy/satire and many countries take this to be true Mexican style. This includes extending the length of vowel sounds.
  • It has a lot of loanwords from English, probably on account of bordering the US.
  • In the forming of cute nicknames, “c/s” is usually “ch,” e.g., Isabella is commonly “Chabela.”
  • There are two opposing youth stereotypes known as fresas and nacos. Fresas use a different intonation and excessive use of English loanwords and nacos are characterized for their use of vulgar slang.

Indigenous influence:

  • The version of Spanish spoken in the Yucatán Peninsula includes many words of Mayan influence.
  • Nahuatl (language from the Aztecs) has contributed two sounds: [t͡ɬ] and [t͡s], that are used for “tl” and “ts” in words. This is one of the features that makes Mexican Spanish very recognizable. You can catch versura’s pronunciation of axolotl (axolotl) for an example of [t͡ɬ] (on the “tl” part of the word). [t͡s] is simply “ts” said with force.

Central American Spanish

Distinción, seseo or ceceo: If Central America is your destination, it’s time to forget about the [θ] sound, as it’s a seseo area. That means all of your casas will be pronounced [kasa].

Yeísmo: Central American Spanish features yeísmo, so you only have to learn the [ʝ] sound for both “y” and “ll” spellings. The /ʝ/ phoneme can also be pronounced as [j], which is a softer version of [ʝ]. Next to an “e” or an “i,” /ʝ/ might not be pronounced at all.

Pronunciation of “s”: Pronounced as [h], except in Guatemala and Costa Rica where it’s pronounced as [s] in most areas.

Pronunciation of “j”: “J” is pronounced as [h] in Central America, which is very similar to the English “h” sound.

Pronunciation of “ch”: “Ch” is pronounced as [t͡ʃ], so you’ll hear the Spanish equivalent of the English “ch” quite a lot.

Pronunciation of “r”: Pronounced as [ʐ] in Guatemalan (like a strong “s” in “measure”) and Costa Rican Spanish. Elsewhere, the standard [ɾ] and [r] are used. That means you’ll be hearing (and using) the classic Spanish trill ([r]) and the “r” sound sometimes used in English ([ɾ]). To help you learn these, camilorosa’s perro (for [r]) and Lizandra’s caro work as classic examples.

Pronunciation of “n” at the end of the word: [ŋ] is used for words ending in “n,” which means that you’ll be hearing the “ng” sound a lot and also possibly some nasalized vowels before the “n.” To help you recognize this subtle use, check out Quasimodocrc’s pronunciation of citan (cited).

Form of “you” used: Vos is more common than in the region for informal address; it’s used with vos verb endings, especially in Costa Rica. Usted (formal) is used in more scenarios than vos. This means that, to stay in everyone’s good books, you’ll want to use the formal register with most people but learn the informal archaic register (vos) and its verb endings to help you express familiarity in a relaxed conversation.

Interesting linguistic features:

  • There’s a huge variation in vocabulary in this region. Each country will have different words, some archaisms, some loanwords from indigenous languages or English. Also, each country has its own version of slang, which is often made up over time.
  • However, the languages are all similar compared to other regional dialects because they were originally part of the same administrative unit (i.e., they were all ruled by one government).

Indigenous influence:

  • The [ʐ] in Guatemalan and Costa Rican Spanish is sometimes attributed to the influence of indigenous speakers—in the case of Central America, possibly the Mayan languages.
  • This version of Spanish has also borrowed quite a few words from Nahuatl, like the Mexicans, but from a slightly different dialect of Nahuatl, so the words are different from Mexican borrowed words.

Caribbean Spanish

Distinción, seseo or ceceo: The Caribbean is a seseo region, so no [θ] sounds. To make matters even more complicated, as you’ll see below, the Caribbean is an aspirated “s” region, so instead of [kasa], you’ll be more likely to hear [kaha].

Yeísmo: The Caribbean is a yeísmo region, so both “ll” and “y” will be pronounced [ʝ]. For an example of how this sounds, see Alius92’s pronunciation of cayó (he fell).

Pronunciation of “s”: “S” is almost always pronounced as [h] or left out altogether, a characteristic that makes Caribbean Spanish very fast and sometimes hard to follow. You’ll quickly adjust to this way of speaking, so fear not!

Pronunciation of “j”: “J” is pronounced as [h], which means it’s aspirated the same as “s” is. To hear aspirated “j” in action, check out rsalvarez’s pronunciation of relajo (relaxation).

Pronunciation of “ch”: “Ch” is pronounced as [ʃ], especially in Puerto Rico; this is a sound that’s very similar to the English “sh.”

Pronunciation of “r”: Throughout the Caribbean, “r” is often pronounced as [l] (like the English “l”) or even [h] (aspirated) at the end of a word. In Puerto Rico (and occasionally elsewhere), “r” is often pronounced [ʁ] (the French “r,” see this video to help you learn how to pronounce it—bear in mind, it may be pronounced slightly differently) or [x] (like the Scottish “ch” in “loch”).

Pronunciation of “n” at the end of the word: [ŋ] is a common pronunciation of “n” at the end of the word, as is the nasalization of the vowel before the [ŋ]. That means you’ll be hearing lots of words that sound like they end in “ng,” but actually don’t. For an idea of how this sounds, you can listen to Sunny1’s pronunciation of domingo (Sunday). Caribbean words with [ŋ] at the end will be pronounced much the same but without the last syllable (go).

Form of “you” used: is used instead of vos, and is used in more scenarios than the polite usted. This means that unless you’re in a very formal situation, you’ll be using tú and its verb endings. Those heading to the Caribbean isles will not have to learn about vos, which will make life easier!

Interesting linguistic features:

  • In the Cibao region of the Dominican Republic, “r” or “l” at the end of a syllable is often pronounced [j].
  • “D” between vowels is often left out.
  • Verbs don’t switch position in question form. For example, the Caribbeans would say ¿Qué quieres? (what do you want) instead of ¿Qué quieres tú?

Indigenous influence:

  • The Tainos are indigenous to the Caribbean and contributed many words to the language there. These also spread throughout a lot of South America and even to Europe as they were the first indigenous people that the Spanish came across in the New World and many of their words were relevant to the environment. The word “barbecue” comes from Taino.

Andean-Pacific Spanish

Distinción, seseo or ceceo: The Andean-Pacific region is a seseo region, which means no [θ] but plenty of [s]. For example, casa would be [kasa].

Yeísmo: Finally, we’ve got down to one of the regions where the phonemes are separate! This means that “y” corresponds to the phoneme [ʝ] and “ll” corresponds to [ʎ] (a bit like the English “y” but with more contact between the tongue and roof of the mouth). In Ecuador, “ll”(/ʎ/ ) is pronounced as [ʒ], which is a bit like the English “s” in “measure.” For an example, take the word caballo (horse); Aradia pronounces it with a [ʒ], fernando_tala pronounces it with a [ʝ] and fjglez pronounces it with a [ʎ] sound.

Pronunciation of “s:” “S” is simply pronounced as [s] in the Andean-Pacific regions, which (you guessed it) is pronounced like the English “s.”

Pronunciation of “j”: “J” is pronounced as [h] (aspirated) in Colombia but [x] (like the “ch” in the Scottish “loch”) throughout the rest of the region. For an idea of an aspirated “j,” check out victornalab’s pronunciation of jalapeños.

Pronunciation of “ch”: “Ch” is pronounced as [t͡ʃ] in this region, which is an awful lot like the English “ch,” and so it’s exactly what you would be expecting.

Pronunciation of “r”: Often pronounced as [ʐ] (like the “s” in “measure” but more powerful) and [ʂ] (which is a little like “sh” in English, but focus the air-stream further towards your teeth with your tongue). At the Pacific coast, like in the Caribbean, [l] and [r] at the ends of words are interchangeable.

Pronunciation of “n” at the end of the word: “N” at the end of a word is pronounced as [ŋ] except for in inland Colombia, where it’s [n]. In Peru and Ecuador, it’s often [ŋ] at the end of any syllable, not just the end of the word. For an idea of how this sounds, you can listen to Sunny1’s pronunciation of domingo.

Form of “you” used: Apart from in Peru, where is used, vos is used as the informal “you.” Those with an indigenous background are likely to use the verb conjugation for vos but those who have a more Hispanic background will usually use the verb forms for . It really depends on where in the area you’re going to.

Interesting linguistic features:

  • In areas that are heavily influenced by indigenous languages, only three vowels remain (a, i and u).

Indigenous influence:

  • The Andean-Pacific region has Spanish that’s heavily influenced by the native languages Quechua and Ayamara. Quechua contributed many loanwords, some of which are known across South America and both have contributed to the lack of yeísmo in this region.

Rioplatense Spanish

Distinción, seseo or ceceo: Another region in the seseo club! Here you won’t hear the [θ] sound; it will be replaced by [s]. This means that zapato is pronounced [sapato], like Sento does on the linked page.

Yeísmo: Yeísmo is in action in this area. Both /ʝ/ and /ʎ/ are pronounced as [ʒ] or [ʃ], depending on which part you’re in. Caballo is pronounced by Aradia with a [ʒ].

Pronunciation of “s”: “S” is often pronounced as [h] (aspirated), especially if it comes before another consonant.

Pronunciation of “j”: “J” is commonly pronounced as [ç] (like “sh” but with the tongue pressing your back teeth), especially throughout the Argentinian areas; elsewhere [x] (like “ch” in the Scottish “loch”) may be used.

Pronunciation of “ch”: “Ch” is pronounced as [t͡ʃ] in the Rioplatense area, which is very similar to the English “ch.” For example, take julianmid’s pronunciation of churro (fritter).

Pronunciation of “r”: The pronunciations of “r” in the Rioplatense area are very standard: [ɾ] (this is produced with one quick movement of the tongue which quickly touches the roof of the mouth) and [r] (the trilled Spanish “r”). If you have some experience learning Spanish, you should already be familiar with these.

Pronunciation of “n” at the end of the word: “N” has the plain and simple pronunciation of [n], which is exactly what you’re expecting: just “n.”

Form of “you” used: Vos is used, with its verb forms, everywhere apart from some parts of Uruguay, where is used with the vos verb forms. Usted is less popular, meaning you have only the informal to learn.

Interesting linguistic features:

  • The intonation pattern most closely resembles the Italian of Naples. This is because many Italians settled there in the 19th century.
  • This type of Spanish has 9,000 unique words.
  • Lunfardo is a type of slang that originated among the lower classes in Buenos Aires.

Indigenous influence:

  • Guarani and Quechua languages have both had an impact on the vocabulary of the Rioplatense area.

Chilean Spanish

Distinción, seseo or ceceo: Chile is another seseo region, which means that you won’t hear [θ], and instead will hear [s]; every casa will be [kasa].

Yeísmo: Chile is mostly a yeísmo region, except for some areas of the Chilean Andes where the phonemes have remained distinct (see the Andean-Pacific Spanish section for more on this). Apart from in the Andean area, both “y” and “ll” are pronounced as [ʝ].

Pronunciation of “s”: “S” is usually pronounced [h] (aspirated) before another consonant, however, it’s only [h] at the end of a word among the lower classes. You’ll want to watch out for this one.

Pronunciation of “j”: “J” is pronounced as [ç] (like “sh” but with the tongue pressing your back teeth) before vowels, and otherwise is either [h] (aspirated) or [x] (like the “ch” in the Scottish “loch”).

Pronunciation of “ch”: The pronunciation of “ch” has an interesting split; the upper classes use [t͡s] (like the English “ts” in “bits”) whereas lower classes use [ʃ] (like the English “sh”).

Pronunciation of “r”: [ʐ] (like the “s” in “measure” but more powerful) in some highland areas, elsewhere standard, except by lower class speakers who often pronounce “rn” as [nn].

Pronunciation of “n” at the end of the word: “N” at the end of a word is nasalized to [ŋ] only in northern Chile, elsewhere it’s simply [n].

Form of “you” used: There are four levels of formality in Chile. The most informal is the use of vos and its corresponding verb forms. Familiar but slightly more formal is the use of with vos verb forms. with its corresponding verb forms is the standard form and used among peers and to address someone younger than the speaker. Usted is a formal form and used for someone older and to show respect, including by some children to their parents. There’s a lot to learn for Chilean Spanish address!

Interesting linguistic features:

  • The “b” in “bl” is often pronounced as [u] (a bit like the “oo” in the English “too”) by lower class/rural speakers.

Indigenous influence:

  • Quechua has contributed the most loanwords to Chilean. Many of these words have different counterparts in other dialects as they would have come from other indigenous languages.
  • Mapudungun contributed many plant and animal names, as its speakers were native to Chile and knew the environment well.

Canarian Spanish

Distinción, seseo or ceceo: Canarian Spanish is interesting seseo-wise! Apart from pockets of ceceo, speakers use seseo. The use of two different linguistic phenomena is unusual considering how small the Canary Islands are. It means that some speakers will use only [θ], and others will use only [s].

Yeísmo: Yeísmo is in operation throughout the Canary Islands, meaning both “ll” and “y” will be [ʝ].

Pronunciation of “s”: “S” is pronounced as [h] (aspirated) most of the time, just like the Caribbean. This makes speech very rapid and sometimes difficult to follow.

Pronunciation of “j”: “J” is always pronounced as [h] (aspirated). Check out Javier as pronounced by Pablo2012.

Pronunciation of “ch”: “Ch” is pronounced as [t͡ʃ], which is like the English “ch” in “chips.”

Pronunciation of “r”: Again, like in the Caribbean, [l] and [r] can be interchangeable, and are sometimes dropped; this is especially true if they’re at the end of a word.

Pronunciation of “n” at the end of the word: “N” at the end of a word is nasalized to [ŋ] (which sounds like the English “ng”).

Form of “you” used: Ustedes is used as the plural form instead of vosotros, like in the rest of European Spanish. is used throughout as the singular informal version.

Interesting linguistic features:

  • Due to the historical links, Canarian Spanish is very similar to Caribbean Spanish.

Indigenous influence:

  • Many words are taken from the Guanche language, including many Canarian names.

Castilian Spanish

Distinción, seseo or ceceo: Castilian Spanish is the only variety which features distinción. That means that speakers will use [θ] for “z” and [s] for “s.” So zapato would be pronounced [θapato] and casa would be pronounced [kasa].

Yeísmo: Yeísmo is uncommon; most speakers will use both phonemes. This means that you’ll hear [ʎ] for “ll” as well as [ʝ] for “y.”

Pronunciation of “s”: More often than not, “s” will be pronounced as [s] (which is just plain English “s”).

Pronunciation of “j”: “J” is pronounced as either [x] (like the “ch” in the Scottish “loch”) or [χ] (an aspirated version of [x]) depending on the speaker.

Pronunciation of “ch”: “Ch” is pronounced as [t͡ʃ] (like the English “ch”) through most of the Castilian area, except for in Madrid, where it’s pronounced [t͡s] (like the English “ts”). For an example of “ch” as [t͡s], see antowalad’s pronunciation of covacha (poor housing).

Pronunciation of “r”: “R” is pronounced [ʐ] (which is similar to “s” in “measure” but more powerful) or [ʂ] (which is a little like “sh” in English, but focus the air-stream further towards your teeth with your tongue) in the Castilian region.

Pronunciation of “n” at the end of the word: “N” is simply pronounced as [n] at the end of a word.

Form of “you” used: is used in a moderate amount of scenarios. Usted is the formal version of this. Vosotros is used as the plural of and ustedes is the plural of usted.

Interesting linguistic features:

  • “D” at the end of a word is often pronounced [θ].
  • This is the classically standard form of Spanish, the kind that’s usually used on the radio and TV.

Indigenous influence

  • As this is the Spanish of Spain, it has only Old Spanish as its predecessor.

Andalusian Spanish

Distinción, seseo or ceceo: Seseo and ceceo are both used in different regions throughout the Andalusian region. This means that in some areas speakers will use only [θ] and others will use only [s]. Zapato is either [θapato] or [sapato].

Yeísmo: Yeísmo is in action throughout the Andalusian region. This means both “y” and “ll” will be pronounced [ʝ].

Pronunciation of “s”: “S” is pronounced as [h] (aspirated) or left out. This creates that relaxed speech style that characterizes the Caribbean; it’s thought to have originated in Andalusia.

Pronunciation of “j”: “J” is pronounced as [h] (aspirated) in most regions but [x] (like the “ch” in the Scottish “loch”) is still occasionally used.

Pronunciation of “ch”: “Ch” is pronounced as [ʃ] (like the English “sh”).

Pronunciation of “r”: [ɾ] and [l] are interchangeable (especially at the end of words) and frequently pronounced as [j] (like the English “y”) in some words.

Pronunciation of “n” at the end of the word: “N” at the end of a word is nasalized in the Andalusian area, so [ŋ] is used. For an idea of how this sounds, you can again listen to Sunny1’s pronunciation of domingo.

Form of “you” used: and usted are used, but the plural of both is ustedes.

Interesting linguistic features:

  • It’s the second most spoken dialect in Spain.
  • It has some words derived from Arabic that are not in any other Spanish dialect.
  • The gender of some words is different from standard Spanish.

Indigenous influence:

  • Like Castilian, it has no real predecessor, except that of Old Spanish.


Now that you’ve journeyed through a world of variety, it’s time to perfect the dialect of your choice.

But don’t stop after that.

Come back and learn yet another dialect to help you explore new and exciting pockets of language.

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.

Experience Spanish immersion online!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.

Experience Spanish immersion online!

Comments are closed.