The Varieties of Spanish spoken in various parts of the World:

There are several kinds or varieties of Spanish including Castillan Spanish of northern Spain; Latin American Spanish of countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Chile; Carribean or "Tradewinds" Spanish; "Lunfardo" or Argentinian Spanish mixed with Italian; "Chabacano" or Creole Spanish of southern Philippines, "Papiamento" or Creole Spanish of Aruba, Curacao and the Netherland Antilles; "Ladino" or the Spanish of some overseas Jew communities; "Guarani" or creole Spanish of Paraguay; and "Espanglish" or the mixed Spanish-English of the second generation Hispanic immigrants to the United States. While the Philippines was the most distant country colonized by Spain, and consequently had the smallest number of Spanish settlers, the Spanish language still had a significant influence on the major Filipino languages and dialects. "Chabacano" or the Creole-Spanish of the Zamboanga area in the southern Philippines has been reported to have a Spanish word content of up to 90% while the noted Spanish linguist, Antonio Quilis, asserts that the two major Filipino indigenous languages, Visayas and Tagalog have a 20% Spanish word content. As a matter of fact, a Filipino researcher, Renato Perdon estimates that there are at least 5,200 "Hispanismos" or words that have a Spanish origin in the Filipino national language. The following excerpts discusses some of the variations and differences in the countries where the Spanish language is spoken.

Excerpt # 1:

Spanish is the most widely spoken of the Romance languages, both in terms of number of speakers and the number of countries in which it is the dominant language. Besides being spoken in Spain, it is the official language of all the South American republics except Brazil and Guyana, of the six republics of Central America, as well as of Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Additionally it is spoken in the Balearic and Canary islands, in parts of Morocco and the west coast of Africa, and also in Equatorial Guinea. In the United States it is widely spoken in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California (in New Mexico it is co-official with English), in New York City by the large Puerto Rican population, and more recently in southern Florida by people who have arrived from Cuba. A variety of Spanish known as Lad mo is spoken in Turkey and Israel by descendants of Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492. All told there are about 350 million speakers of Spanish.

Pronunciation and usage of Spanish naturally vary between countries, but regional differences are not so great as to make the language unintelligible to speakers from different areas. The purest form of Spanish is known as Castilian, originally one of the dialects that developed from Latin after the Roman conquest of Hispania in the 3rd century A.D). After the disintegration of the Roman Empire, Spain was overrun by the Visigoths, and in the 8th century the Arabic-speaking Moors conquered all but the northernmost part of the peninsula. In the Christian reconquest, Castile, an independent kingdom, took the initiative and by the time of the unification of Spain in the 15th century, Castilian had become the dominant dialect. In the years that followed, Castilian—now Spanish—became the language of a vast empire in the New World.

Spanish vocabulary is basically of Latin origin, though many of the words differ markedly from their counterparts in French and Italian. Many words beginning with f in the other Romance languages begin with h in Spanish (e.g., Ilijo—son, hilo—thread). The Moorish influence is seen in the many words beginning with al- (algodón—cotton, alfombra—rug, ahitohada—pillow, alfiler—pin) . As in British and American English, there are differences in vocabulary on the two sides of the ocean-patata (potato) is papa in Latin America, while melocotón (peach) is durazno. Spanish spelling is based on generally consistent phonetic principles, and reflects better than most languages the way a word is pronounced. The consonants b and v are pronounced alike, the sound falling somewhere between the two sounds in English (boca—mouth, voz—voice). The letter z, and the letter c before e and i, are pronounced as a voiceless th in Castilian, but more like s in southern Spain and Latin America (zapato—shoe, ciudad—city). The letter j, and the letter g before e and i, are pronounced like the English h (jardin—garden, general—general), though in Spain it is more guttural than in Latin America. The hard g sound is represented by g before a, o, and u (gato—cat), but gu before e and i (seguir—to follow). The combination ch is pronounced as in English (muchacho—boy), but is considered a separate letter of the Spanish alphabet, occurring after c. Similarly ll, pronounced as in the English 'million" in Spain but as y in America (calle—street), comes after 1 in the alphabet; ñ , pronounced ny (pequeño—small), comes after n; and rr, a rolled r (correr—to run), comes after r. The h is always silent (hombre man).

The stress in Spanish likewise follows a consistent pattern, falling on the next to last syllable in words ending in a vowel, n, or s, and on the final syllable in words ending in other consonants. Exceptions to this rule are indicated by an acute accent (árbol—tree, corazón—heart).

English words of Spanish origin include cargo, siesta, sombrero, mesa, hacienda, patio, armada, guerrilla, junta, plaza, canyon, rodeo, pueblo, adobe, vaizilia, armadillo, tornado, embargo, and bonanza.


Excerpt # 2:

The Spanish spoken by most second generation speakers in the United States is very different in some ways from the Spanish spoken in the interior of Mexico. Mexicans can recognize a Spanish speaker from the USA no matter how well they speak the language. Most Hispanic-Americans live relatively isolated from the rest of the Spanish-speaking world which has led them to "invent" words. Some use "Anglicisms" such as "parkear el carro" for "park the car". Others use outdated Spanish that they inhereited from their ancestors who may have migrated two or three generations ago. They also use regional dialects that are not familiar in Mexico.

With travel between the US and Mexico becoming more and more frequent and with TV crossing all borders, some of theses aberrations in the Spanish language are even being heard in central Mexico. The following are some examples of these "anglicisms"...needless to say, they are not correct Español, but see if you can figure them out.

"bil" - as in "Tengo muchos biles para pagar." 
"chainear" - as in "Necesito chainear mis zapatos."
"daime" - as in "No tengo dinero, ni un daime ."
"hauchar" - as in "Tengo que huachar los hijos de mi hermana."

Those were pretty easy, but we are tired of taipiando for now and anyway it is time to lonchar. If your Spanish only went to escuela alta, then perhaps you need to espeliar better.


Excerpt # 3:

If after years of Spanish classes, some people still find it impossible to understand some native speakers, they should not worry. This does not necessarily mean the lessons were wasted. Millions of Spanish speakers use neither standard Latin American Spanish nor Castilian, which predominate in U.S. schools.

The confusion is partly political—the Spanish-speaking world is very diverse. Spanish is the language of 19 separate countries and Puerto Rico. This means that there is no one standard dialect.

Latin American Spanish

The most common Spanish dialect taught in the U.S. is standard Latin American. It is sometimes called "Highland" Spanish since it is generally spoken in the mountainous areas of Latin America.

While each country retains its own accents and has some unique vocabulary, residents of countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia generally speak standard Latin American Spanish.

This accent is noted for its pronunciation of each letter and its strong "r" sounds.

This Spanish was spoken in Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and was brought to the Americas by the early colonists.


However, the Spanish of Madrid and of northern Spain, called Castilian, developed characteristics that never reached the New World. These include the pronunciation of "ci" and "ce" as "th." In Madrid, "gracias" (thank you) becomes "gratheas" (as opposed to "gras-see-as" in Latin America.)

Another difference is the use of the word "vosotros" (you others) as the formal form of "you" in Spain. Latin Americans never use "vosotros," favoring "ustedes" instead.

Castilian sounds to Latin Americans much like British English sounds to U.S. residents.

"Trade Winds" Spanish

The third major type of Spanish is spoken in the Caribbean, coastal areas of Latin America, and in some cases in southern Spain. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the accent in Seville, Cádiz, and other cities in Andalusia, in Southern Spain, began to change. Speakers began to drop the final "s" on words.

The settlers and traders of southern Spain took this dialect with them to the Caribbean and other coastal areas. Today Caribbean or "Lowland" Spanish is characterized by its relative informality, its rapid pace, and the dropping of "s" sounds, allowing people to talk more quickly.

Italians Influence Argentina

A fourth type of Spanish has developed in and around Buenos Aires and in parts of Uruguay. It is characterized by some out-of-date grammar, and a vocabulary and pronunciation heavily influenced by Italians who settled the area in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Generally in the Spanish world "tú" is the singular way of saying "you." In Buenos Aires, however, "vos" is used instead. It is accompanied by a modified old Spanish verb form. It is as if part of the English-speaking world still used "thee" and "thou" in everyday speech.

In addition, the residents of this region have a tendency to "sing" their sentences like Italians and to pronounce certain words differently from other Spanish-speakers. For instance, they pronounce the "ll" as an English "j," while most other Spanish speakers pronounce "ll" as an English "y."

The Buenos Aires accent is instantly recognizable throughout the Spanish world. Gaucho poetry and twentieth-century Buenos Aires novelists have preserved this speech as a literary style.

The influence of Italian has even led to the development of a separate language, Lunfardo, which blends Spanish and Italian. Argentine intellectuals have produced Lunfardo dictionaries and books in an effort to keep the language alive.


Excerpt # 4:

"Spanglish" or How English Words Become Spanish

Although it isn't always possible to accurately predict how or if an English term will be adopted into Spanish, there are some patterns that are evident. Many of them hold true whenever one language absorbs part of another. For example, the terms most likely to be adopted are those where the acquiring language doesn't have convenient terms of its own. Thus the Spanish terms adopted into English in recent years have been mostly those of foods, words such as taco, enchilada and burrito, plus a few related to Mexican culture, such as piñata and machismo. And many of the indigenous languages of Latin America have adopted Spanish terms such as days of the week and other aspects of the conquering culture. Following are examples of the different ways Spanish is adopting English vocabulary:

Outright adoption: Some words of business and technology such as marketing, merchandising, rating (as of a TV show), CD-ROM and flash (for cameras) have become more or less accepted as genuine Spanish. Other terms, such as email and links, exist side by side and struggle for supremacy with equivalents of Spanish derivation (in this case, correo eléctronico and enlaces). Generally speaking, nouns added to the language in this way are masculine. One prominent exception is la Internet, probably because a synonymous term, la Red (the Net), is feminine. Often terms that enter the language through popular culture also are adopted unchanged. Examples include OK, sexy, cool, Top 40, rock, rap, and oh baby, which have varying degrees of acceptance.

Adoption with changes to make them more "Spanish": This is especially common with verbs, which usually get the -ear suffix. Examples include tipear (to type), clickear or cliquear (to click, as with a mouse), emailear (to email), and pompear (to pump gasoline). For examples of nouns, a political meeting is sometimes called a mitin, and a block for buildings is a bloque.

Use of English cognates or literal translations: Examples cited in a recent article in the Argentine newspaper Clarín are the use of reportear for "to report" instead of informar, and remover for "to remove" instead of sacar. Such usages are common in newspaper and magazine articles translated from English, less so in articles originally written in Spanish. Other examples include the usage, especially in Latin America, of educación instead of pedagogía for "education" and computadora instead of ordenador for "computer".


Excerpt # 5:


Estimados contertulios, en especial Don Ramón:

Escribo estas líneas de reflexión para comunicarles, según lo que estuve leyendo e investigando, que el español es la segunda lengua de comunicación mundial, en tanto a lengua maternal se refiere. Por supuesto que la primera lengua es el chino. De eso nadie tenga ninguna duda. China es la quinta parte de la Humanidad y nadie podrá suplantar su peso demográfico ni linguístico por lo menos a corto plazo.

Esta información la obtuve del Britannica Book of the Year del año 2001 (que trae eventos del año 2000). Según esta publicación, que adelanto contiene algunas carencias, nuestra lengua cervantina es hablada como lengua maternal por 356.334.000 millones de personas (en junio de 2000), siendo sólo superada por el chino mandarín que lo hablan 917 millones de personas. Al español, que se ha convertido en la primera lengua occidental más hablada, le sigue el inglés con 351.671.000 de personas. Por supuesto, si a esta cifra sumamos los que utilizan el inglés como "lingua franca" o segunda lengua de comunicación, entonces la lengua de Shakespeare nos aventaja con holgura llegando a más de 600 millones de parlantes. El portugués, la otra lengua hispánca, es hablado según la BBY por 175.242.000 de personas entre Africa lusófona, Portugal, Brasil, Timor, Canadá, Estados Unidos y Francia. A esta cifra la BBY agrega otras 12,5 millones de personas que lo utilizan como "lingua franca" en Africa (Angola y Mozambique fundamentalmente). El francés viene muy distante con 74 millones de parlantes como lengua nativa aunque hay otros 70 millones, sobretodo en Africa, que lo utilizan como "lingua franca".

Estas cifras las obtuve pacientemente como resultado de sumar país por país la cantidad de parlantes de estas lenguas. Decía anteriormente que estas cifras, sobretodo para nuestra lengua no me convencen mucho. En primer lugar, para Filipinas, el español no figura. Olvido casual?. También para Filipinas esta publicación asigna el uso del inglés como "lingua franca" para 39 millones 700 mil habitantes. Eso no lo puedo creer!. Estamos hablando de más del 50% de la población filipina que utiliza el inglés. Tal vez sea un error de la publicación. Otros idiomas filipinos son: el tagalo hablado por 22,350 millones, el Cebuano por 17,760 millones y el Ilocano hablado por 7 millones. En cuanto al chabacano, sólo figura con 470 mil parlantes. En segundo lugar, la BBY confunde grupos étnicos con grupos linguísticos. Así muestra que sólo el 72% de los españoles tienen el español como su lengua madre. Esto es un error ya que el español también se habla en el País Vasco, en Cataluña y en Galicia. Pero, más allá de los errores y omisiones de esta publicación, tenemos una aproximación a la demografía de nuestra lengua española. Dejando de lado la Encyclopaedia Britannica, hay otras fuentes que también avalan estos guarismos.

Por una parte tenemos a Ethologue que estima para febrero del año 1999 una población de hispanoparlantes del orden de los 332 millones de almas. (Top 100 languages by population: El World Almanac del año 1999, sitúa al español como tercera lengua universal -luego del chino y del hindi- con 358 millones de personas como lengua madre y otros 59 millones como segunda lengua, lo que totaliza un total de 417 millones de habitantes para el año 1999. Las cifras más o menos coinciden.

Otra fuente en que me apoyo para aseverar estas cifras es la obtenida en el Anuario del Instituto Cervantes de la Lengua española del año 1998 en un artículo llamado "La demografía de la lengua española" ( De las tres fuentes mencionadas, les confieso que me resulta la más realista esta última. Para el Instituto Cervantes, basado en el BBY, el español es hablado por unas 351.132.983 millones de personas para el año 1996.

El Instituto Cervantes recoge los hispanoparlantes de Filipinas que son 1.816.389 (según datos proporcionados por D.Guillermo Gómez Rivera), de Alemania que suman unos 140 mil, de Suiza que totalizan unos 55 mil, que no fueron mencionados en el BBY-Language. Partiendo de esta cifra, y basándome en los datos estimativos de población realizados por el BBY de junio del año 2000, llego a la conclusión que nuestra lengua es hablada por 376.671.000 de almas para dicha fecha.

Al momento de escribir este artículo, y tomando en cuenta que los hispanoparlantes crecemos a razón de unos 6 millones trescientas mil personas al año, sitúo nuestra lengua en unos 383 millones de personas (capicúa) a junio del presente año. Esta cifra no incluye los criollos o lenguas derivadas del español: el papiamento hablado en Aruba, Bonaire y Curacao (Antillas), el Chabacano hablado en Filipinas por unas 700 mil personas, y el ladino (la lengua de los judíos sefaradíes que fueron expulsados de España en 1492 y que hoy suman unos 160 mil parlantes).

Esta cifra también excluye, por falta de datos fiables, la población saharahui (Sahara Occidental) de habla hispana que hoy injustamente mantiene anexionado Marruecos.

Así que, en resumidas cuentas, estamos hablando hoy en día de unos 385 millones de almas que tienen la lengua del Cid como lengua maternal. Es curioso también que hay países hispanos que nunca son mencionados. Me refiero los casos de Andorra donde el 51,4% habla español -aunque el idioma oficial es el catalán- y a Bélice que según el último censo del año pasado el 44,1% de su población está compuesta por hispanos (mestizos de origen guatemalteco en su mayoría) más un 11% de mayas, ambas etnias profundamente católicas e hispanas. Este territorio, reclamado de antaño por Guatemala, fue ocupado y nunca devuelto por los ingleses. Al parecer, ahora Guatemala reconoció la soberanía del nuevo estado, pero el inglés es la única lengua oficial.

Otro país hispánico es el ya mencionado Sahara Occidental que aún pende su independencia a pesar de las resoluciones afirmativas en tal sentido de las Naciones Unidas.

En el Pacífico y Oceanía tenemos a Filipinas, Guam y las Marianas como legado hispánico viviente. Lamentablemente la campaña de desculturalización orquestada por el imperialismo norteamericano ha hecho borrar del mapa prácticamente nuestra lengua de estos países. Tarea nuestra es su recuperación y en eso estamos abocados. Otro país de progresiva hispanización es nada más y nada menos que Estados Unidos. Sus hoy 35,3 millones de hispanos -según el censo del año pasado- son el fiel testimonio de nuestra presencia en dicho país. Presencia que antecede a la misma existencia de los Estados Unidos. Se estima que para el año 2020 la minoría hispana llegará a los 67 millones de personas y que para el año 2050 supere los 100 millones de almas, llegando a constituir un 25% de la población de ese país. Cifras éstas sin parangón alguno que amenazan con transformar definitivamente la composición étnica de nuestro vecino norteño.

Otras minorías hispanas significativas: Francia con 230 mil habitantes, Canadá con similar cifra, Australia con 100 mil, Bélgica e Israel con 50 mil cada uno.

Con similar entusiasmo se mira el proyecto del Presidente del Brasil D.Fernando Henrique Cardozo de imponer el español como idioma oficial de ese inmenso país de 170 millones de habitantes. Brasil forma parte del Mercosur junto a Uruguay, Argentina y Paraguay. El español ha sido reconocido recientemente como la quinta lengua oficial por la Organización de la Unidad Africana, y tiene importancia creciente en las Naciones Unidas.

Nos resta invitar a Haití a sumarse a la Hispanidad. Su historia anterior a 1697 es común con la República Dominicana.

El otro gran pilar de la Hispanidad, lo constituye la lengua portuguesa. Como señalaba, las cifras de dicho idioma lo sitúan en los 190 millones de personas en los cuatro continentes: Europa, América, Africa y Asia (Timor). Amén del portugués como idioma, existen una variedad de lenguas -criollos o créoles- derivados de la misma que se hablan en Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Cabo Verde, Annobon (Guinea Ecuatorial), Goa (India), en Sri-Lanka o en Malaca. Es muy difícil cifrar la cantidad de parlantes del criollo-portugués pero al menos debe contar con varios centenares de miles de parlantes.

Esta gran comunidad hispánica, que sumada alcanza la nada desdeñable cifra de 700 millones de almas, que comparte una historia, una misma religión y un mismo porvenir, puede ensamblarse y constituir un gran bloque homogéneo en este mundo de globalización. Porque solamente unidos podremos ser grandes y formar parte de la historia.

Un fraternal saludo a todos los miembros de este círculo, ENRIQUE YARZA ROVIRA.

From: Enrique Yarza Rovira To: Sent: Saturday, August 11, 2001 20:01

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