The Differences Between Spanish in Spain and Mexico

Are you looking for Spanish language training options for your employees? There’s a very important point you may not have considered: Which version of Spanish do they need to learn?

We don’t often think about this in the U.S., but Spanish has many forms, just like English does. English speakers from Birmingham, England, and Birmingham, Alabama, could probably understand each other. But they’d have to listen extra carefully and probably still experience some miscommunications.

The same is true for Spanish speakers from different countries. There are many other variations in Spanish around the world.

But since most of our clients are learning Spanish to communicate with colleagues in either Spain or Mexico, that’s where we’ll focus today. Here are just a few of the distinctions between how Spanish is used in Spain and Mexico.

Spanish Vocabulary Differences Between Spain & Mexico

Just as U.S. English speakers say “elevator” and British English speakers say “lift,” there are also vocabulary differences between Spain and Mexico.

  • Vale in Spain expresses okay or agreement. This term is not said in Mexico.
  • In Spain, tio can mean guy, and tia can mean guy or gal. But the dictionary meanings of these terms are uncle and aunt.
  • In Mexico, tickets are boletos. In Spain, tickets are billetes.
  • The word for computer in Mexico is computadora. In Spain, it’s ordenador.
  • In both Mexico and Spain, Spanish speakers use the word coche for car. But Mexicans may also use carro, while Spaniards say automóvil.
  • Whether you are in Spain or Mexico, you might hear the word autobús for bus. But Spanish speakers in Mexico may also call it a camión.
  • In Mexico, a potato is a papa. In Spain, the more common term is patata.
  • Mobile phones are known by different names in Spain and Mexico. In Spain, your phone is your móvil or teléfono móvil. In Mexico, it’s known as celular or teléfono cellular.
  • Craving some ice cream? In Mexico or Spain, ask for helado. In Spain, you can also use the term helado de crema.
  • If you’d rather have a soda, you can use the word refresco in both Mexico and Spain. In Spain, you could also say bebida gaseosa.
  • Here’s one more important vocabulary word. Dinero means money in both Spain and Mexico. But Spaniards also use the word plata.

Spanish Pronunciation Differences Between Spain & Mexico

Z and C (before E or I) are pronounced very differently in Spain vs. Mexico. You can immediately tell if someone is from Spain due to this pronunciation difference. In Mexican Spanish, this sound is akin to the S sound in English. In Spain, though, it’s more like the Th sound in English.

But that’s not the only pronunciation difference between Spanish as it’s spoken in Spain vs. Mexico. In Spain, the letters J and G before E and I are pronounced as a guttural sound, similar to the “ch” sound in the Scottish word “loch.” In Mexico, the same letter combinations are pronounced more like the H sound in English.

You may also notice different pronunciations in different regions of the same country. For example, Spanish speakers in both Mexico and Spain pronounce the letters LL and Y similar to the Y sound in English. But in some parts of Spain, you’ll hear a Zh pronunciation instead.

Why did these differences emerge? Over hundreds of years and many thousands of miles, groups of people change a spoken language over time. In Medieval Castilian Spanish, just as in Medieval Olde English, words were spelled differently than they are today.

What These Differences Mean for Spanish Language Training

The variations in language and culture between Spanish-speaking countries are a compelling reason to choose live instruction (whether in-person or online) instead of relying on language apps to teach your employees Spanish. Apps are a great way to casually explore a language or supplement what you’re learning in a class. But live classes can take your employees to a higher level of Spanish proficiency and be more customized to their needs.

We always advise choosing instructors who are native speakers of the language being taught. But, in this case, it’s also important to know the specific country your instructor is from. For example, let’s say your company wants the executive team to learn some Spanish because a large segment of your workforce is from Mexico.

The best instructor for you to work with should also be from Mexico. On the other hand, if you’ll be sending some U.S.-based employees to your Madrid office, their instructor should be from Spain.

At Fluency Corp, we have extensive experience helping our clients improve their Spanish skills and learn about the culture of the country they’re relocating to or visiting, or that their colleagues hail from.

Ready to learn more? Set up a free consultation by contacting us or call us at (800) 401-3159.