To facilitate the learning process and make sure students will end up speaking something most native Spanish speakers can understand, shouldn't a student be concerned with the actual dialect being taught? I have seen that a lot of times, Spanish dictionaries and instruction never say what dialect is being taught. Is there perhaps some kind of software that can analyze the words of Spanish materials to find out what the dialect is?

What dialect of Spanish has the least amount of words and idioms that are not common to other Spanish dialects? Is there a common dialect used on television? Where can one find a dictionary that is dialect specific for each word?

  • 4
    The dialect students learn isn't a huge concern — and most of the time, in the US at least, the books are relatively dialect neutral, but they will intentionally avoid some words that can get you in trouble (coger and joder as examples). The grammar is the same (whatever differences that may exist won't be noticeable to students for a long time), the only difference is a handful of words and some minor pronunciation differences (which can be just as big within a country as between countries), most of which can be picked up by students on a study abroad.
    – guifa
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 14:49
  • Thank you :) What about idiomatic phrases?
    – Uilium
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 14:54
  • 1
    If I take a novel and don't know the author, it takes me several pages to find hints of if they are from Spain or South America, (and I do this consciously, as a hobby). Of course, slang is much more dialect dependent than formal language.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 20:17

2 Answers 2


One of the main reasons this is not such a concern is that written Spanish has the Real Academia Española (RAE) as the "book of truth" about Spanish. Regarding oral communication, yes, people will be able to tell you are not a native speaker, but usually they will understand what you are saying.

I like very much your point about television. It used to be that movies and TV shows were translated in either Spain or Mexico, this was done by educated actors with what I would call close to neutral accent. However, you can tell which translations came from Spain and which from Mexico. Nowadays, translations are made in multiple countries, just as you can find Spanish spoken movies on the Internet, e.g. Netflix, from different countries.

One peculiarity, also found in English, about oral communication is that what I call a neutral accent, can usually be noticed in singing.

So if you are concerned about being understood by most Spanish speaking people, study cadences and pronunciation in movies translated (not filmed) in Mexico and Spain, and in songs from all over Spanish speaking countries.

  • 1
    One important caveat: if you want to live in a country in order to learn "by immersion", you may want to be a little more picky in your choice. Some speak very quick, put less care in pronunciation and are full of slang in their daily speech. As a Chilean I once meet a guy who was very good at language learning (it took me two weeks to tell his accent apart from my own), then he went to Spain and was horrified to realise he didn't understand --at first-- a single sentence in full. In general I'd advise people not to learn Spanish in Chile if they have a choice.
    – Rafael
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 17:31
  • I've been searching for answers to these questions for around 15 years. SE is the best source I know for finding hard to find obscure information. I am very greatful for everyones input , Thank You! :)
    – Uilium
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 21:51
  • Thank you @christophe-strobe for your edit.
    – David
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 20:13

For your end it's exactly not a concern. Native speakers understand all dialects perfectly well as long as it's not spoken too informally and full of slangs, which can be said for many languages. It's simply the same as saying would a US English speaker understand a UK English speaker? Of course! There's absolutely no point in concerning oneself with dialect in this case. As long as the learning material is consistent, go for it, otherwise you'd be wasting a lot of time on an irrelevant point.

As a side note, the definition of dialect is basically sound about Romance languages. If something is too different then it is already classified as a separate language, e.g. Catalan and even Galician is not a dialect of Spanish, but another language. So if it claims to be a "dialect", you can trust it as such. The same cannot be said for other languages such as Chinese though, but that's irrelevant to this topic.

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