My Spanish or Your Spanish?

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“Who wants cake?”  Can you believe there are at least seven ways to say “cake” in Spanish?!  Pastel, torta, queque, ponqué, bizcocho, dulce, tarta all mean the same delicious treat.  It’s not so surprising when you consider the fact that Spanish is the official language in over 20 countries, and there are many dialects!

In our classrooms

So, which Spanish do we teach?  Officially, the Spanish language is regulated by the Real Academia Española in Madrid (RAE), and that’s our reference for choosing the most widely understood “official” words for our curriculum.  At Spanish Schoolhouse, our teachers and staff from all around the Spanish-speaking world bring their linguistic traditions with them.  What an awesome opportunity for children to experience the richness of their accents, vocabulary, and expressions!  These unique and varied “flavors” of Spanish give our students a language experience that’s far more authentic than they’d get from books or digital materials.

Variety is the spice of life

SSH students learn that there are multiple ways of saying things, and that sometimes a word has different meanings in different countries.  For example, if you ask a Chilean and a Puerto Rican, “¿Dónde está la guagua?” don’t be surprised if one points to a baby and the other points to a bus! 

In Spain, un buzo is a diver. But in Costa Rica, it’s sweatpants, in Uruguay, it’s a turtleneck, and in Guatemala, it describes someone who’s really talented! 

These differences can make for some amusing conversations when you’re first adjusting to a local style of Spanish!

A little linguistic history

It’s fascinating to see how Spanish has evolved around the world over time.  Just like “thee,” “thou,” and “thine” faded from English, in Latin America, the Spanish plural pronoun vosotros dropped out of use by the end of the 19th century.  Since it was formerly used by nobles, it was considered haughty and too impolite for everyday use.  Interestingly, in modern Spain, this form is considered friendly and informal (similar to “y’all”) and remains widely in use today.

Does it matter which version you learn?

There are subtle differences in accent and intonation among Latin American countries, and some noticeable differences between Spain and Latin America, but this isn’t a problem for Spanish speakers.  They easily understand each other, just as Americans, Australians, and Brits do.

If you’re a Spanish-learner, don’t worry!  Just follow the lead of your preschoolers and embrace the language differences.  You’ll be understood wherever you go.  After Chinese, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world so a basic knowledge will open up doors for travel, work, and friendships all over the globe!

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