Beyond the Textbook

There are currently thousands upon thousands of books, textbooks, and dictionaries available to Spanish students in the United States. Unfortunately, virtually all of these materials adopt the Spanish spoken in Spain as their standard model, around which their grammatical content and lexicons are structured. As a result of this tendency to privilege the Spanish of Spain, students experience frustration upon discovering that the Spanish they have been taught using these materials differs significantly from the Spanish spoken by the native speakers with whom they come into contact in the United States and Mexico.

Modern Spanish textbooks tend to ignore the fact that Mexico is home to the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, and that most language learners in the United States are going to be using Spanish, either on the job or in a social setting, to communicate with people who speak a Mexican or a South American variety of the Spanish language. In a show of a sort of linguistic colonialism, American students are typically taught a variety of Spanish that is little more than a modified form of the Spanish spoken in Spain. Though this fact is largely taken for granted, and hardly ever questioned, it would be like teaching Children in Mexico or Guatemala British English as opposed to American English and representing British English as the universal standard.

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with the Spanish of Spain. Rather, this site is devoted to filling in the gaps so that American students of Spanish can fluently converse with Spanish speakers in the real world, since most native Spanish speakers they are likely to encounter will either be from Mexico or Latin America. Additionally, it is important to call attention to the fact that the Spanish of Spain enjoys privileged status in American schools and universities, and that using the Spanish of Spain as the standard makes little sense, since these students are much more likely to encounter native Spanish speakers from Central and South America than from Spain.

This site is designed to aid those students who already have some formal exposure to Spanish, but who desire to expand their knowledge of the nuances of the Spanish spoken in Mexico, Latin America, and the southwestern portion of the United States by literally millions of people.

How does the Spanish Spoken in Mexico and Latin America differ from the Spanish of Spain?

To understand the differences between Mexican and Latin American Spanish and the Spanish of Spain, it is first necessary to understand the cultural and linguistic influences that have shaped the language as it exists today in both Mexico and Latin America. In Mexico, for example, a number of words have been incorporated into the Spanish language from Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs. Additionally, due to Mexico's proximity to the United States, a number of English words have also been incorporated into the Spanish that is spoken there. These cultural and linguistic influences have combined to create a unique lexicon, used widely throughout Mexico and in the surrounding areas such as the southwestern portion of the United States.

To list just one example of a word used in Spanish that originally did not exist in the language until it was created from an existing English word, the word troca is used in parts of the United States and northern Mexico to refer to a truck. The word in so-called standard Spanish for truck is camión. As English and Spanish speakers came into contact, however, the word troca was born to facilitate communication between English and Spanish speakers. While some folks criticize the use of words such as troca labeling such words as Spanglish, it should be remembered that all languages were created in this manner. From Latin, for example, Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian and the other Romance Languages emerged. Yet, at one time all of these languages were really just dialects of Latin, or in other words, Latin that was being used improperly. Thus, the process that has given rise to Spanglish is the very same process that created the beautiful Romance Languages as the use of Latin spread to areas newly acquired by the Roman Empire.