Variations of Spanish: Watch out for prejudices!

Language is not static, and the variations of Spanish back this up. In our daily lives, we often meet people who aren’t aware of linguistic diversity, and the variations of languages that exist. These people, in their ignorance, go so far as to disregard linguistic variations they are unfamiliar with and create prejudices.

As language professionals, we want to give you a little insight into the variations of Spanish worldwide and free yourself from linguistic prejudices. Because Spanish, which is spoken by hundreds of millions of people, varies from country to country. Let’s get started!


What are linguistic prejudices?

A prejudice, in general is, according to the Collins dictionary, (let psychologists forgive us if there is wiggle room), “an opinion formed beforehand and unfavorably based on inadequate facts”.

Therefore, a linguistic prejudice is a negative opinion about a person based on their way of speaking. Usually, the lack of knowledge of the existence of linguistic variations causes many people to create prejudices when faced with variations of languages that are not the ones they are used to. This often leads to linguistic discrimination, from which it is often inferred that speaking badly reflects being less capable.

But what exactly is bad language?

They don’t speak badly, they have a language disorder

Technically we could only say that people who suffer from a language disorder speak badly, and this is quite politically incorrect. When someone uses an oral variation other than the standard one, they are viewed as a bad speaker, and are labelled as incapable, uneducated or, directly, stupid.

It’s true that some people are just not bothered to learn the standard language, and this can lead to problems. The standard, like spelling conventions, is a means of understanding between many people.

However, it is much more problematic to believe that people who use different varieties of languages speak badly. Because they don’t speak badly, they simply speak in a different way (like the nice lady you met in a village in the countryside, or your South American neighbour).


Examples of Spanish variations

Just as there is no one language better than another, you cannot determine which variety of a language is better. It may be that you prefer one to the other, but that’s a matter of aesthetics. To demonstrate this, we’ve got a few examples of Spanish variations.


Andean Spanish

Some speakers of Andean Spanish (especially in certain parts of Peru), use the clitic pronouns.

Therefore, they would say “I have it” to replace “I have the flowers”, when in standard Spanish you would say “I have them”. For its speakers, it’s normal to use this pronoun like this, and they have no problems understanding its use.


Puerto Rican Spanish

In Puerto Rican Spanish, we also find differences that surprise those of us who aren’t from there. In this variation, probably because of the influence of English, there is no inversion of the subject in the interrogative sentences.

A Puerto Rican will say “What wants Carlos?”, instead of saying “What does Carlos want?”

For someone with little linguistic knowledge, anyone who speaks like this would appear to be speaking badly. Nothing could be further from the truth, they are speaking well, but just in their linguistic variation.


There are many variations of Spanish. Let’s not fall into prejudice

Remember that no one speaks badly, it’s just linguistic diversity. We must not fall into prejudice, since this only helps create division. Just as we have a different eye or hair colour, we speak different variations of the same languages. Even within Spain, there are certain variants like Andalusian or even Spanglish in the US that could make us fall into prejudice.

Variations of Spanish should be taught in-depth at school!

Need cultural and linguistic advice, or need to adapt a text from one variant to another? Contact us!

About the author

Oscar Nogueras

Es el CEO de Ontranslation y dedica algunos ratos libres a escribir en este blog para compartir sus conocimientos sobre internacionalización, cross-border ecommerce y Traducción SEO. No es para menos, ya que entre su formación cuenta con una licenciatura en filología inglesa, un máster en tradumática, un posgrado en elearning y un MBA. En definitiva, una declaración de intenciones donde la cultura y los idiomas se sirven mezclados, no agitados.

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