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Guatemalan Spanish vs. Mexican Spanish

Instructor: Aida Vega Felgueroso

Aida has taught Spanish at the University in Italy. Spanish is her mother tongue and she has a master's degree in Spanish Language and Literature.

In this lesson we will see the differences between Spanish spoken in Mexico and Spanish spoken in Guatemala. You will learn several very curious things throughout this lesson.

Guatemalan Spanish vs. Mexican Spanish

Ahorita nomás me voy a casa (I'm going home right now).

Sabés una cosa, vos? Estoy preparando un chirmol buenísimo. (You know what? I'm preparing a delicious tomato sauce).

These two sentences are Spanish, but the first one would most likely be spoken by a Mexican. In contrast, the second would probably be said by a Guatemalan. You know why? In this lesson we'll find out.

Mexico and Guatemala are two Latin American countries where Spanish is spoken. Spanish is a fairly homogeneous language, meaning that two people coming from different countries wouldn't find it difficult to communicate. At the same time, it is normal that there are differences in the ways of speaking of different countries. Here we are going to see the differences between the Spanish spoken in Mexico and the one spoken in Guatemala in pronunciation, morphology, and vocabulary. At the end of the lesson you will be able to differentiate a speaker from Mexico from a Guatemalan!

The dictionaries contain all the modalities of Spanish.
diccionarios

Pronunciation

Both Mexicans and Guatemalans similarly pronounce some sounds. Here we will see the ways in which they differ.

In Mexico

  • E becomes I and O becomes U: Sometimes you can recognize a Mexican by this vocal characteristic.

Take a look at the following table:

Word Pronunciation Spanish standard Pronunciation Spanish Mexico Meaning
peor Pay-OHR PYOR worst
teatro tay-AH-troh TYAH-troh theater
toalla toh-AH-yah TWAH-yah towel
  • N becomes M: This phenomenon is typical of the Yucatán area. The letter N, especially when it is at the end of the word, is pronounced like an M. Thus, a phrase like ¡Que te vaya bien! is pronounced ¡Que te vaya biem! (Good luck!)
  • The letter S disappears: In many words, Mexicans do not pronounce S, especially when the S is at the end of the word. Muchos regalos (A lot of presents) could sound like mucho regalo.

A Mexican pyramid
mexicopir

In Guatemala

  • The letter LL disappears: sometimes Guatemalans do not pronounce the letters LL.

Look at this table:

Word Pronunciation Spanish standard Prounciation Spanish Guatemala Meaning
gallina gah-YEE-nah gah-EE-nah chicken
estrella ays-TRAY-yah ays-TRAY-ah star
  • The letter J is not pronounced: Guatemalans usually do not pronounce the letter J or the letter G when it sounds like a J.

For example: gente (people) sounds like ente and teja (roof tile) sounds like tea.

A Guatemalan pyramid
guatempir

Morphology

Morphology is the study of words--how they are formed and how they are used. Let's see some characteristics of morphology in the Spanish of Mexico and the Spanish of Guatemala.

Mexico

  • Use of the imperative with the pronoun le: This is one of the most typical features of Mexican Spanish. The imperative is used with the pronoun le. The use of expressions such as ándele (walk!), dígale (say!), camínale (walk!) is very frequent.
  • Use of the words nomás or nomasito: These words have the meaning of 'just.'

Nomás quería platicar contigo. (I just wanted to talk with you).

  • Use the expression qué tanto?: The expression qué tanto? is used in Mexico to mean 'how much?'

Qué tanto amas a tu familia? (How much do you love your family?)

Frida Kahlo, a famous Mexican painter
frida

Guatemala

  • Voseo: The voseo is a phenomenon that occurs in several countries of Latin America. It consists of substituting the pronoun (you) for the pronoun vos.

For example the phrase Tú te llamas María (Your name is María) is replaced by Vos te llamás María (Your name is María).

  • Placement of vos at the end of the sentence: The pronoun vos, specifically in the questions, is placed at the end of the sentence.

Te dolió, vos? (Did it hurt you?)

Vocabulary

The biggest differences between the ways of speaking of different countries are usually in the vocabulary. Let's see some words that are typical of Mexico and Guatemala.

Mexico

Some typical words of Mexican Spanish and their meanings:

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