Duolingo Spanish Type: European vs Latin American

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Are you trying to choose between European and Latin American Spanish on Duolingo?

What a dilemma! This might be hard to believe, but thousands of people find themselves in this challenging position every day.

I know it can be hard to decide between one and the other, especially when you don’t know the first thing about either.

However, the matter might be out of your hands, since currently, Duolingo only offers European Spanish. If you’re hellbent on learning the Latin American type, there are other services out there, like Rosetta Stone and Lingodeer that cover both, so if you want to check them out, be my guest.

But if you feel more comfortable learning on Duolingo, not all is lost. Both Spanish types share many similarities, so it might be worth getting your start with the European variant. Below, you’ll find a list of many reasons why this is worth considering, along with some of the main differences between one and the other.

The 5 main differences between European and Latin American Spanish are:

  1. The accent
  2. Slang
  3. Variations
  4. Learning resources based on location
  5. Versatility

Read on to discover more about this beautiful language!

#1 Accent

Let’s start off by mentioning the most obvious difference – the sound every accent has. If you ask someone from Latin America, they’ll probably tell you that European speakers have an accent and vice versa.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

One of the first things most non-Spanish speakers notice is that European speakers pronounce the letters “z”, and “c” similarly to how English speakers pronounce the “th” in the word “the”. This is something that Latin American speakers do not share, as their pronunciation is very different.

For example, a word like “comercio”, which means commerce, will sound very different in each Spanish type (comer[s]io vs comer[th]io), even when it means the same thing.

If you’re from Europe, you’re much more likely to encounter people from Spain than people from Latin America, so if you’re trying to learn the language for business, you might want to stick to European Spanish.

#2 Slang

It could be argued that this applies to any language on Earth. In fact, you can oftentimes find different words and expressions from people within the same country. One of the best examples I can think of to illustrate this is Mexico.

You wouldn’t believe how frequently people from the North and people from the South struggle to understand each other in this regard, as each group has expressions that the other has likely never heard before.

This also happens between Latin American and European Spanish, as the former has evolved throughout the centuries following colonization.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if you learn Latin American Spanish, people will understand you perfectly in Spain and vice versa. But since each language type has unique expressions and characteristics, it’s in your best interest to focus on one and explore it in depth.

#3 Variations

Spanish Book for Learning
Both Spanish types sound similar, but they can be quite different sometimes

Following along the lines of the previous point, let’s discuss the variations that exist between each Spanish type.

So far, we’ve barely scratched the surface, as both are unique in their own way. One of the main things both native Spanish speakers and non-native Spanish speakers notice right away is the tenses and pronouns European speakers use.

In Latin American Spanish, they have “ustedes” (you, in plural), whereas European speakers say “vosotros”. And the same happens for words like “eres”, or “son“ (you are), as European speakers usually say “sois”.

So, if you wanted to say “All of you are very smart”, you’d have to say “Ustedes son muy inteligentes” in Latin America, and “Vosotros sois muy inteligentes” in Spain.

Moreover, it’s also important to consider that each Spanish type has slight changes depending on the region you’re visiting. But to be fair, this happens in English-speaking countries as well, so it might not be the best point of comparison.

The bottom line is, that whenever you’re comparing Spanish types on Duolingo, you should take these variations into consideration.

#4 Learning Resources Based on Location

Location Map
Consider your location, as this will determine what resources are available to you

Moving on, let’s go deeper into something I mentioned earlier – how your location affects the additional learning resources that will be at your disposal.

Duolingo is a great tool for learning new languages, but sadly, it’s not designed to get you to a level where you’re extremely fluent and nearing native-speaking mastery. The platform is very useful for people who want to embark on this journey and reach an intermediate-advanced level, but that’s about it.

If you’re interested in one day being mistaken for a native Spanish speaker, you’ll have to look for additional opportunities to practice the language and work on your pronunciation.

That’s where classes and daily life come in.

If you want to join Duolingo’s classes, location won’t be an issue, as they’re usually hosted online since the beginning of the pandemic. They cost anywhere between $10-20 and give you the chance to have a 1-1 conversation with a native speaker.

However, if that’s not your cup of tea, you can also try going to in-person classes at your nearest community college. This route might be a little more appealing but bear in mind that depending on where you live, your learning resources will be inclined to one Spanish type or the other.

As stated earlier, due to proximity, Europeans are much more likely to have a Spanish teacher, whereas people from the US and Canada will likely be taught by a Latin American speaker. Now, if your situation is the latter, but you learned European Spanish via Duolingo, don’t panic. You’ll just have to make a couple of adjustments to what you’ve learned, and you’ll be good to go.

#5 Versatility

Versatility of Spanish types
Any type of Spanish will open several doors for you

Finally, let’s see which Spanish type is more versatile.

To be completely honest, if I were to make this judgment based on the language alone, they’d both be at the same level. After all, any type of Spanish will be understood by native speakers, so learning the language will allow you to communicate in more than 20 countries!

That being said, it could be argued that Latin American Spanish is a little more versatile if expressions and region extension are taken into consideration.

European Spanish is mostly exclusive to Spain, whereas its Latin American counterpart can be found in several forms across Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru.

Again, this is not to say that if you’re already well-versed in European Spanish you’ll have to relearn everything, but the accent will definitely stand out to Latin American locals.


All done!

When you’re looking into learning a new language, turning to a platform that specializes in teaching it can be very useful. Many people download Duolingo hoping to be able to choose a Spanish type they like and start studying, but sadly, this is not yet possible.

If you decide to stick to this platform, you’ll have to learn European Spanish over Latin American, as the latter is not available.

I know this can be a little discouraging if it doesn’t align with your interests. But I hope this piece has helped you see that, even if you stick to European Spanish, you’ll be able to communicate in any country that speaks the language.

Thank you so much for sticking with me all the way to the end. If this article proved valuable to you, it’ll make you very happy to learn that there’s new content to enjoy every week. In the meantime, why don’t you check out our other resources below to become a Tech Detective yourself?

I wish you all the best.