Language

Languages and dialects in Mexico

Spanish, the official language of Mexico, is spoken by nearly the entire population and thus gives Mexico the world's largest Spanish-speaking community.

Language

With a good grasp of Spanish you will have no problem communicating in Mexico. A small number of inhabitants, about 1% of the population according to the last estimate, only speak native Amerindian languages or dialects. A larger percentage, some 6% at the last estimate, speaks some Amerindian language as well as Spanish. The government recognises 63 native Amerindian languages (apart from Spanish) as national languages.

Unless you live in a remote local village, however, you will be fine with speaking Spanish in Mexico. Mexican Spanish is polite, clear and easy to understand, and it is not spoken as quickly as in Spain and some other South American countries. Due to the clear pronunciation, many foreigners actually find it easier to learn Spanish in Mexico than in Spain.

Differences between ‘Mexican’ Spanish and ‘Spanish’ Spanish

Though the comparison is not completely accurate, the differences between the Spanish of Spain and the Spanish of Mexico are comparable to the differences between British English and American English. Besides the different pronunciation there are some differences in the use of grammar (eg. Mexicans replace the second person plural “vosotros” with the third person plural “Ustedes”) – as well as some, well, very ‘Mexican’ expressions.

A Mexican slang word you will hear continuously is the word chingar – which can be replaced by the more polite word fregar depending on who you are talking to. Depending on the circumstances, chingar can describe almost any situation or emotion you can think of. Here are some examples:

  • está de la chingada – this is shit
  • es una chingadera – this is terrible
  • no me chingues – don’t get on my nerves
  • está chingón – this is great

Some Mexicans go as far as seeing the word chingar as one of the utmost expressions of Mexican feelings and culture, and you will definitely be seen as more ‘Mexican’ when using it appropriately. However, the first meeting with your new girlfriend’s parents is NOT an appropriate situation for practicing your new vocabulary, though as a foreigner you are likely to be forgiven your first few mistakes with Mexican vocabulary.

With a good grasp of Spanish you will have no problem communicating in Mexico. A small number of inhabitants, about 1% of the population according to the last estimate, only speak native Amerindian languages or dialects. A larger percentage, some 6% at the last estimate, speaks some Amerindian language as well as Spanish. The government recognises 63 native Amerindian languages (apart from Spanish) as national languages.

Unless you live in a remote local village, however, you will be fine with speaking Spanish in Mexico. Mexican Spanish is polite, clear and easy to understand, and it is not spoken as quickly as in Spain and some other South American countries. Due to the clear pronunciation, many foreigners actually find it easier to learn Spanish in Mexico than in Spain.

Differences between ‘Mexican’ Spanish and ‘Spanish’ Spanish

Though the comparison is not completely accurate, the differences between the Spanish of Spain and the Spanish of Mexico are comparable to the differences between British English and American English. Besides the different pronunciation there are some differences in the use of grammar (eg. Mexicans replace the second person plural “vosotros” with the third person plural “Ustedes”) – as well as some, well, very ‘Mexican’ expressions.

A Mexican slang word you will hear continuously is the word chingar – which can be replaced by the more polite word fregar depending on who you are talking to. Depending on the circumstances, chingar can describe almost any situation or emotion you can think of. Here are some examples:

  • está de la chingada – this is shit
  • es una chingadera – this is terrible
  • no me chingues – don’t get on my nerves
  • está chingón – this is great

Some Mexicans go as far as seeing the word chingar as one of the utmost expressions of Mexican feelings and culture, and you will definitely be seen as more ‘Mexican’ when using it appropriately. However, the first meeting with your new girlfriend’s parents is NOT an appropriate situation for practicing your new vocabulary, though as a foreigner you are likely to be forgiven your first few mistakes with Mexican vocabulary.

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