by Siegmar Schulz
In Mexico Spanish is spoken as mother tongue. But everybody who wants to
learn spanish in Mexico
should know that the Mexican Spanish has some deviation from the European Spanish.
The differences in the written language and daily communication are not too
large; however the colloquial languages and dialects of each region differ,
sometimes quite significantly, not only in pronunciation but also in vocabulary.
Some words have undergone a semantic shift in Mexico and generally the
Mexican vocabulary can be described as more archaic than the continental
European, i.e. to Europeans the expressions often seem outdated or archaic.
Some deviations are also due to the influence of indigenous languages, with
different degrees of influence in different regions. The influence of US
English is very clearly felt and is much stronger than in Europe.
In the region of grammatical peculiarities the use of past tenses and the
voseo one does not note any significant deviations of the European
A particularly characteristic distinguishing feature of Mexican Spanish
speakers is the intonation which is significantly different from the European.
Although pronunciation and vocabulary in the Mexican regions sometimes vary
greatly, one can emphasize some general differences between the language of
Mexico and the European Spanish:
1) Grammatical features
The past tense (préterito perfecto - e.g. he comprado), is
relatively uncommon in Mexico, instead preterit perfect or past anterior
tense (pretérito anterior, e.g. compre) is used when one does
not want to emphasize very explicitly the continuation of an action.
The polite title form Ustedes (comparable to the Siezen
in German), which is rarely used in Spain, is commonly used in Mexico,
regardless of level of language or familiarity. Thus in the Mexican language
area the second person plural is not used at all and always replaced by the
address in the third person, the personal pronoun Ustedes always
takes the place of vosotros.
2) Differences in Vocabulary
There are many differences between the continental and the Mexican Spanish,
moreover, within Latin America and also different from country to country
in semantic peculiarities. These exist mainly in the everyday language and
in concepts of daily life. Serious communication problems between speakers
from different European and American sub-regions of the Spanish speaking
world hardly exist.
There are a variety of words that were borrowed from the languages of
indigenous peoples. Some of them have also reached the European Spanish.
These include terms such as aguacate (avocado) or patata (potato).
Misunderstandings are most likely with words that aside from the general
significance have a colloquial special significance. For example, the word
coger (to take, grab, catch), which is innocuous in Spain, is a
vulgar term for sexual intercourse in Mexico. The phrase, Voy a coger el
autobus (I'll take the bus) is, in the presence of Mexicans, a certain
cause for hilarity. In Mexico the word tomar (to take drink, occupy) is
frequently used instead of coger.
3) Differences in the pronunciation
Many Mexican features of pronunciation are reminiscent of Southern Spanish
dialects, and are especially popular in Mexico because in the 16th and 17th
century most immigrants to Mexico came from Southern Spain (mainly Extremadura
For Mexico the so-called Seseo is typical. While in European Spanish
a z is mostly pronounced like a voiceless th in English it converts in Mexican
Spanish to a voiceless s. The same happens to c before e and i - for example:
Spanish pages on Omniglot