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Spanish speakers aware of regional differences?


I recently met an educated young man from central Mexico who seemed totally unaware that Spanish as spoken in his part of Mexico was not the same as Spanish spoken in other regions of the Spanish-speaking world.

One word that came up in one of our conversations was the noun torta. If you look at the dictionary associated with this site, you will see about 4 different meanings listed for torta within the 1st definition (I didn't know that dictionaries could do that!). Now, I was raised in a part of the world where torta means cake. He, being from Mexico, thinks that torta means filled roll. My point is this: he was totally unaware that torta had other meanings in other Spanish-speaking regions.

My discussion question: Are native Spanish-speakers generally aware or unaware of regional differences in the Spanish language?

Ahora que estoy viviendo en Guatemala, me he fijado que hay varias diferencias entre el español guatemalteco y el castellano boliviano. Por ejemplo, en Guatemala un colegio público financiado por el gobierno se llama un colegiooficial. En Bolivia, por otra parte, esa clase de colegio se llama fiscal. Lo que me interesa es que ni los bolivianos ni los guatemaltecos se dan cuenta de esta diferencia.

Mi pregunta para discutir o platicar: Generalmente, los de habla español, ¿se dan cuenta, o no, de las diferencias regionales del idioma castellano?

updated MAY 30, 2010
edited by waltico
posted by waltico
cultural insight-great question - 0074b507, MAY 29, 2010
no no lleva acento - 00494d19, MAY 30, 2010
Gracias, Heidita. - waltico, MAY 30, 2010

2 Answers


When I first started learning Spanish I learned all kinds of words that I was later stunned to realized weren't recognized by my Mexican friends like torta and inodoro. When I tried to tell Maria that torta was cake she assured me that it does not mean cake and instead means a sandwich type thing and that cake was pastel. SInce then I took all my notes and ran them by her. 90 percent were OK and 10 percent she had either never heard of or she said had a totally different meaning. I think sendero was one, the lessons list it as "path" and show a dirt trail. She said it could only be a path near a beautiful church that was lined with flowers and was all sparkly and pretty. A real beautiful thing and never just a dirt trail. (if that's the word I'm thinking of).

Here's the best one though and it just happened yesterday. I was supposed to tell a girl to arrive at 3:45. One of the very first lessons that I ever took (and several others too) taught me that "cuarto" means 15 in time, or a quarter, so "cuatro menos cuarto" was 3:45. The girl didn't understand it. I finally just told her "son las tres cuarenta y cinco" and she understood but she kept on asking me about cuarto, and telling me it means room (which I also knew). So I asked some of the other Mexican guys, no one had ever heard of it to mean a quarter of 15 minutes in time, only room and other stuff but never anything for time. They said you have to say "Quince antes de las cuatro" if you want to say 3:45 without saying it the other way. My mind was blown because I have about 5 books right here that say it means quarter and it's the first definition in the dictionary here.

updated ABR 5, 2011
posted by jeezzle
another cultural revelation-great anecdote, keep them coming. - 0074b507, MAY 30, 2010
I also learned "las cuatro menos cuarto" - and this is in common use. But, since "la hora" is feminine, perhaps it should really be "las cuatro menos cuarta"! - waltico, MAY 30, 2010
Thank you a great response.We used to always say 15 mins before 4. but it has been more the other way with younger folks,. - ray76, MAY 30, 2010

Me sorprende esto. La mayoría de los mexicanos parece saber muy bien que hay diferencias bastante gruesas de uso de vocabulario inclusive dentro de México. He escuchado no sé cuántas conversaciones entre gente del estado de Jalisco y el estado de Nayarit (estados vecinos) sobre falta de comunicación y malentendidos a raíz de diferencias de vocabulario.

De hecho, me cuesta creer esto. Inclusive la gente que no tiene una educación formal habla de las diferencias de vocabulario entre las regiones de México.

¿Será algo más bien mexicano, eso de darse cuenta de los regionalismos? O tal vez no entiendo bien cuál es tu pregunta?

updated MAY 30, 2010
posted by mountaingirl123
Entiende bien mi pregunta. Parece que su experiencia no es igual al mía. - waltico, MAY 30, 2010
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