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Spanish in the United States and Mexico

This blog is based on the project “Proyecto de dialectos españoles” on LanguageARC. To participate, click here.

In this blog, we will talk about Spanish spoken in the United States and Mexico and the lexical, phonetic, grammatical, and syntactic aspects of these dialects.

United States Spanish

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States, with about 41 million speakers. It is also the most learned language other than English. Spanish colonizers brought the language to the United States when they arrived in what would later be Florida, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, and Puerto Rico.

There are many dialects of Spanish spoken in the United States, but linguists categorize these varieties into the following large groups.

  • Mexican Spanish: Spoken near the United States/ Mexico border in the Southwestern United States, California, Texas, and is becoming more widely spoken throughout the United States. It is also largely studied by Spanish learners in the United States.

  • Caribbean Spanish: Spanish spoken by Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Dominicans, largely heard in locations such as New York City, Miami, and other cities in the Northeastern United States.

  • Central American Spanish: Spanish spoken by people with origins in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua. It, like Caribbean and Mexican Spanish, is heard in cities in California, New York, Texas, Miami, as well as Washington, D.C.

  • South American Spanish: Spanish spoken by people with origins in South American countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, and Venezuela. It is spoken in major cities in New York, California, Texas, and Florida.

Spanish dialects in the United States often receive influence from English vocabulary and grammar, and semantics. Some of these influences are noted below:

  • Spanish speakers in the US often use estar instead of ser.

  • Spanish speakers in the Southwestern United States tend to use the future tense to express grammatical mood (instead of, 'ir + a + infinitive', which is mostly used for speaking about events that have not happened yet but will occur in the future).

  • The second person singular pronoun “tu” is commonly used, but “vos” is sometimes used by Spanish speakers with Central American heritage.

  • Spanish-speakers who are proficient in English tend to not use the subjunctive mood.


Mexico has a variety of Spanish dialects, but linguists have grouped them into the four broad categories: Northern, Central, Coastal, and Yucatán.


Dialects include:

Norteña – Northeastern

Norteña Occidental – Northwestern

Spanish speakers in Northern Mexico have a blunt pronunciation, and the last syllable in words and sentences is often emphasized. Northern speakers also use a lot of volume and energy when speaking.


Dialects include:

Occidental – Western

Bajío – Lowland

Altiplano – Central

The Central dialects have a song-like quality. The last vowels in sentences are emphasized, potentially by being held for an extra moment or an adjustment to the pitch, where the voice gets a bit higher.Between Central dialects, there is variation, such as small pronunciation differences, and slang terms.


Dialects include:

Sureña Central – Central Southern

Costeña – Coastal Southern

Chiapaneca – Southeastern

In Coastal dialects, the speaking volume is rather low, and speakers often talk quickly. Because of this, vowel sounds can become blurred, and hissing can occur within words.


The Yucatán Dialect, spoken in the southeastern part of Mexico along the Atlantic Coast, is similar to Coastal dialects. However, vocabulary and sentence structure can differ.

Despite these dialectical differences, Spanish speakers everywhere can understand and communicate with each other.


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