Introduction to Spanish and Dialects

19.10.2016 |

Episode #1 of the course Spanish language basics by Nicole Joslin


¡Bienvenido/a to this course on the basics of the Spanish language!

Spanish is a Romance language, which means that it’s based on Latin. If you already speak another Latin-based language like Italian, Portuguese, French, or Romanian, you’ll have an easier time understanding Spanish.

As an English speaker, you’ll already be familiar with a lot of Spanish vocabulary and some grammar, so don’t worry! Learning Spanish isn’t so hard after all.

In this course, we will cover the following topics:

1. Introduction to Spanish and dialects
2. Alphabet, pronunciation
3. Accent marks
4. Grammatical gender
5. La concordancia & plurals
6. Personal pronouns
7. Formal and informal speech
8. Conjugating basics
9. Conversation basics
10. How to self-study Spanish online

Estoy muy emocionada—I’m very excited to get started!

To begin, let’s take a look at Spanish from a global perspective.

Spanish is the official language in 19 countries in Latin America, one country in Africa, and one country in Europe, but it’s commonly spoken in even more countries!

This means that there is not one Spanish language. There are plenty of diverse dialects and regional variations. The four major variations are: Peninsular Spanish (Spain), Rioplatense Spanish (Argentina and Uruguay), Caribbean Spanish (countries located in or bordering the Caribbean Sea), and standard Latin American Spanish (most countries in Latin America).

Of course, these distinctions are generalized, and in each country there are also small regional changes in pronunciation, vocabulary, pronoun use, and even grammar.

To give you a few examples, in Spain the letter ‘Z’ is pronounced like how we pronounce ‘TH’ in English. In Latin America, however, the ‘Z’ is pronounced like an ‘S.’

In Spain, they use “vosotros” as the second person plural pronoun (plural you), while in Latin America they use “ustedes.”

In Rioplatense Spanish, the letter combination ‘LL’ is pronounced like how we pronounce ‘SH’ in English, while in standard Spanish, it’s pronounced like a ‘Y.’

There are also plenty of differences in vocabulary and slang.

So what kind of Spanish should you learn?

Well, that all depends on why and where you’re planning on using your Spanish skills. For example, if you want to learn Spanish to prepare for your trip to Argentina, then you can focus your learning on Rioplatense Spanish. If you’re learning Spanish to work with some new clients in Spain, then you should focus on learning Peninsular Spanish.

However, if you want to learn Spanish just in general to communicate clearly with a Spanish speaker from any country, you can just study standard Spanish. This will be the type of Spanish that you will find in most of the language courses and books, so it won’t be hard to find!

In reality, standard Spanish makes up the majority of all Spanish dialects, so someone from Spain should not have any problem understanding someone from Argentina or Cuba or Guatemala or vice versa.

It’s just like in English—someone from the United States can understand someone from Australia or the United Kingdom and vice versa, even though we have differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, slang, and some grammar.

That’s all for today! Tomorrow, we will get started with the basics of pronunciation with the alphabet and accent marks.

¡Hasta mañana!
– Nikki


Recommended book by Highbrow

“Breaking Out of Beginner’s Spanish” by Joseph J. Keenan


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