Dialects (Madrid, Mexico City & Buenos Aires)

First thing first, what is a dialect? What is the difference between dialect and language? Easy: Can´t you communicate with the other fluently? Then, you both are speaking two languages. If you can communicate fluently, then you speak the same language. So, what is a dialect? it is a way to speak within a language.

Difference between language and dialect

Codes like Mandarin and Cantonese are languages because speakers can’t communicate to each other (no matter if they both have the same Chinese passport). Codes like Spanish and Catalan are also languages because, despite being certain level of understanding (both languages comes from Latin), this communication is not fluent (now you see why this word was in bold).

We all speak a dialect

Speakers from London and New York can communicate each other fluently, ergo, they speak the same language. There are differences in their codes (“you say tomatoe, I say tomato”), but they are minor and that is what defines dialects. So every code in the world is a dialect of a language. Nobody speak a language in abstract. Everyone speaks the language of their country, their region, their province, their city.

The borders between dialects are always blurry

Dividing a language into dialects is like cutting a baguette that has been baked differently. You can cut it in half and each half will look different, one browner that the other. Then you take one half and cut it and you still see differences in both pieces. If you divide English into British and American English, you still find differences within each. In the American dialect you´ll find subdialects: the South, the East Coast, the West…

Spain, Mexico, and Argentina

Unless you are a specialized linguist, you may just care about the first cut. There are three major dialects of Spanish, represented by three countries: Spain (also called Castilian, European, or Peninsular Spanish), Mexico (the highlands), and Argentina (the lowlands). Again, this is a simplification, you can find exceptions, Bolivians (highlanders) speaking like Spaniards (and distinguishing between “ll” and “y”) or Andalusians (Southern Spaniards) speaking like Mexicans (and confusing the “th” and “s” sounds).

Nonetheless, Spanish is a very unified language. The rules of grammar and spelling are the same all over the Spanish-speaking world. The differences between dialects are limited mostly to the preference of some words over others, and some differences in the pronunciation.

English Example 1 Example 2
US English line tomato /tomeito/
UK English queue tomato /tomatoh/
In Mexico fila jitomate
In Spain cola tomate

The most apparent difference between these dialects is in the use of the pronouns.

English In Spain In Mexico In Argentina
I sing (yo) canto < THE SAME < THE SAME
You (singular) sing (tú) cantas (tú) cantas (vos) cantás *
He/ She sings (él /ella) canta < THE SAME < THE SAME
We sing (nosotros) cantamos < THE SAME < THE SAME
You guys sing (vosotros) cantáis (ustedes) cantan (ustedes) cantan
They sing (ellos) cantan < THE SAME < THE SAME
* Notice that the stress is on the last “a.”      

In Argentina, the pronoun vos is the common pronoun instead of , and the system of verb endings (vos cant-ás, vos cantar-ás, etc.) is consistent and normative; however, in other countries in the Americas, the use of vos is not so common or consistent.

Another important difference has to do with the phonetics.

In Spain In Mexico In Argentina
Sound /th/ for “z,” “ce”, “ci” Sound /s/ for “z,” “ce”, “ci” Sound /s/ for “z,” “ce”, “ci”
Sound /y/ for “y,” “ll” Sound /y/ for “y,” “ll” Sound /j/ or /sh/ for “y,” “ll”

Lastly, there are differences in vocabulary (of course).

In Spain In Mexico In Argentina
cometa (kite) papalote barrilete
bragas (US panties) chones bombacha
piscina (swimming pool) alberca pileta
zarigüeya (opossum) tlacuache comadreja

The following list shows the difference in vocabulary between Spain and Mexico.

# English  In Spain In Mexico
1. accountant contable contador
2. angry enfadado enojado, bravo, moles
3. apartment, flat piso apartamento
4. band-aid tirita curita
5. bean judía frijol
6. beautiful bonito lindo
7. bedroom dormitorio recámara
8. blazer americana saco
9. blonde rubio güero
10. bowl cuenco jícara
11. bribe soborno mordida
12. car (automobile) coche carro
13. carpet moqueta alfombrado
14. cell phone móvil celular
15. chauffeur chofér chofer
16. check book talonario chequera
17. cigarette cigarrillo cigarro
18. computer ordenador computador/ora
19. concrete hormigón concreto
20. court tribunal corte
21. directions señas dirección
22. elevator, lift ascensor elevador
23. father padre papá
24. first payment depósito, entrada enganche
25. gang banda panda
26. gas station gasolinera bomba
27. tomato (red) tomate jitomate
28. hair pelo cabello
29. herb store herbolario botánica
30. insurance seguro aseguranza
31. juice zumo jugo
32. kid niño escuincle
33. lawn césped zacate, la grama
34. light bulb bombilla foco
35. match cerilla fósforo
36. meeting reunión junta
37. mother madre mamá
38. not any more ya no nomás
39. OK vale okey
40. pastry bollo pan dulce
41. pajamas pijama piyamas
42. to park aparcar estacionar
43. peach melocotón durazno
44. peanut cacahuete cacahuate, maní
45. pig cerdo puerco
46. piggy bank hucha alcancia
47. please por favor favor
48. possum zarigüeya tlacuache, rabipelado
49. potato patata papa
50. radio radio radio
51. real estate inmuebles bienes raíces
52. rope cuerda soga
53. shrimp gamba camarón
54. skunk mofeta zorrillo
55. speaker (person) portavoz vocero
56. stamp sello estampilla
57. student alumno estudiante
58. sweater jersey, suéter suéter, pulóver
59. swimming pool piscina alberca, la pileta
60. to check comprobar chequear
61. to come back volver regresar
62. to delay tardar demorar
63. to drink (alcohol) beber (alcoh.) tomar
64. to drive conducir manejar
65. to get in a hurry apresurarse apurarse
66. to get nervous poner nervioso dar ansia
67. to grab coger agarrar
68. to have a chance tener oportunidad tener chance
69. to jump saltar brincar
70. to miss someone echar de menos extrañar
71. to monitor monitorizar monitorear
72. to park aparcar estacionar
73. to pull tirar jalar
74. to stand estar de pie estar parado
75. to stand up levantarse pararse
76. to turn on encender prender
77. to talk hablar platicar
78. to tie atar amarrar
79. to toss echar botar
80. unemployed parado desempleado
81. univ. dormitory colegio mayor residencia estudiantil
82. useful contact enchufe palanca
83. VCR vídeo video

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