There is a reason Spain is a popular destination for travel and expats. Spain is a country that is easy to fall in love with. Whether it be the diverse geography, world-renowned food and wine, gorgeous architecture, or the beautiful dance, music, and traditional celebrations, it is a country with so much to offer. On a more practical level, Spain offers universal healthcare, great work-life balance and has a relatively affordable cost of living. It is a wonderful place to visit, work, live or retire. If you are planning a trip at any one of these stages, take a moment to understand a little more about the Spanish spoken in Spain and how it is unique from the Spanish spoken in the rest of the world.
You’ve probably heard the word Castilian or castellano used interchangeably with Spanish, but not really understood exactly what it means or when to use Spanish versus Castilian.
The Spanish we know today around the world originated from the Iberian Peninsula as a dialect of vulgar Latin and spread to the rest of the world as Spain conquered different parts of Latin America and starting with Columbus arrival to the Americas in 1492.
The Spanish from Spain is called castellano or Castilian Spanish, since it emerged from the Kingdom of Castile. There have been many influences affecting the languages of the Iberian Peninsula over the last few centuries, from the Roman Empire to the Muslim Moors from the North Africa region. Conversely, there have been many influences affecting the Spanish spoken in Latin America, such as the influence of the indigenous people of the region.
As a consequence, there are a variety of differences between Castilian Spanish from Spain and Spanish from Latin America. In Spain, the use of vosotros (informal plural you) as well as the famous Spanish lisp is prevalent. In addition, there are many different word choices, expressions and slang as well. These differences are due to each region or countries’ individual history and cultural influences.
Something else to keep in mind is that Spanish is not the only language spoken in Spain. It is the dominant language and definitely has the most speakers in Spain, however, there are several other languages and dialects spoken, like Basque, Catalan and Galician, among several others that are prevalent in Spain and an important part of the culture.
In summary, just like an English speaker can understand someone from a different region or country that also speaks English, Spanish speakers are for the most part able to understand one another. Even though Castilian Spanish has variations in pronunciation, word choices, expressions and slang, at the end of the day, it’s the same language.
Having said that, if one wants to truly be immersed in the language and culture of their host country, it is worthwhile learning the uniqueness of the language spoken, as it can certainly be invaluable and help you enrich your experience with authentic interactions. Not to mention, it will also be appreciated by the locals and allow you to engage with them in more meaningful ways.