What Regional Variety Of Spanish Should I Learn? 

When a language is spoken in many countries by over 450 million people, there are bound to be many distinct regional varieties or dialects. If you are learning Spanish, which one should you choose? Do you want to sound Spanish from Europe, Mexican, Chilean, Columbian, Dominican, Cuban or Bolivian?

The language taught in all schools is standard written Spanish that is grammatically uniform across the world. There are, of course, differences of vocabulary related to culture, geography and history. For example, depending on the country a sidewalk can be called acera, vereda, andén or banqueta.

However, since the majority of teaching materials come from Spain or refer to the language of Spain, written Spanish is essentially the standard language of Spain, often called Castillian or castellano.

The spoken language is another story. Here there is a big divide between Spain and Latin America. Although there are important regional differences in the pronunciation of Spanish in Spain, the one striking sound of European or Peninsular Spanish is the th-like sound of c before i or e (as in cita) and of z as in Zaragoza. Some people say this sounds like a lisp. This is often referred to as ceceo or hablar con distinción.

In Latin America, and even in southern Spain and in the Canary Islands, the sound is more like an s. The words casa and caza sound exactly the same. So do cierra and sierra. This is called seseo.

In Latin America, every country has its own set of accents. In Mexico for example there are around 10 regional varieties of Mexican Spanish. The situation is Columbia is similar. In addition to the accents, the spoken language of each country has many colloquial and slang vocabulary items. There are even distinctive grammatical differences.

The dialogs of films from Argentina will use something called voseo in which the second person verb forms are conjugated with the pronoun vos. You will hear phrases like:
estoy piensando en vos or vos tenés ( instead of tú tienes).

This is a very characteristic feature of the variety of Spanish known as castellano rioplatense spoken in Argentina and Uruguay.

For most students of Spanish, however, the choice of regional variety is really not that difficult. Europeans gravitate toward the Spanish of Spain. North Americans typically lean towards Latin American Spanish.

But things are not always that simple. Many North Americans study Spanish in Spain and some Europeans prefer Latin American Spanish. The language instructors themselves can come from many different countries.

The preferred choice of spoken language ultimately depends on your needs and your interests. If you spend six months studying in Argentina, your Spanish will take on an Argentine flavour. Similarly, if you are very interested in Mexican culture or work with Mexicans, that variety of Spanish is probably more useful.

Despite the reality of all the many varieties of spoken Spanish, keep in mind that your accent is likely to reflect your native language for a long time, if not forever. You will not sound like a native speaker of Spanish soon. So you probably don't have to worry about acquiring a specific regional accent.

Remember that the basics of the language are the same everywhere. Furthermore, because of immigration, tourism and the spread of popular television programs and telenovelas, most Spanish-speakers are accustomed to hearing various varieties of Spanish. The rule of thumb is to go with the variety that you like the most or that is most useful.
 . (First publishd by articles@ezine )