Mexican Spanish

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vocabulary can be described as more archaic than the continental European, i.e. to Europeans the expressions often seem outdated or archaic.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 Spanish.

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 and Andalusia).

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: nacion).

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