How do I choose between Rosetta Stone Spanish (Spain) or Spanish (Latin America)?
June 19, 2011 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Please help me choose between Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America) and Spanish (Spain).

I have used Rosetta Stone before as part of learning a language, and have enjoyed it. I'm now trying to decide whether to buy Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America) or Rosetta Stone Spanish (Spain). I can't find any guidance on their website on how to choose.

Our situation: We spend about 4 to 6 weeks a year in Southern California, and that is our biggest motivation to get more fluent in Spanish. But when I studied 4 years of Spanish in school and college, I learned from native speakers from Spain, and want to build on what I know. I'm afraid to get annoyingly confused if the two types of Spanish are too different from each other.

This will be a new language for both my child and husband, so they are blank slates. We are planning to all three use the Rosetta Stone. But I am the main motivator of this Spanish-learning project, and if I'm not enjoying it, I won't keep us going on it.

Also, other than the time we spend in Southern California, getting more fluent in Spanish is more likely to motivate us to travel to Spain than to Latin America, because of family heritage and previous experience.

So - how different are Spanish (Latin America) and Spanish (Spain), in Rosetta Stone, and in real life? Will people who speak one understand me if I am learning and trying out the other? How accurate is it to even say there is one Spanish (Latin America)? I mean Latin America is a big place. There must be local variants on the Spanish spoken.

Will I regret choosing Spanish (Spain) if our primary place to use the language is Southern California?

posted by Ellemeno to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you choose the Spain one, the main thing you'll miss out on is 'vosotros'. It is mainly used in Spain and not in most South American countries/Mexico. If you plan on going to Spain, get the Spain version of Rosetta. The differences will be minimal, but Spain Spanish is a little more formal than Latin America Spanish. There are some verbs that are different, too. The best comparison is British English vs American English.

I'm not actually sure that Rosetta Stone is really the best way to learn a language, but that's another topic entirely! Buena suerte!
posted by 200burritos at 9:22 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, first of all, 'latin american' spanish is a misnomer. There are a number of latin american dialects, each of which are fairly different from one another. I speak a South American dialect I picked up while living there, and it's different from the mexican spanish that americans are more accustomed to hearing.

That said, while there are a number of differences between the dialects, they're mostly the kinds of differences you can overcome by asking a few questions. Names for foods are often different, for example. Sometimes the second person conjugation is different (vos versus tu), but hear the other conjugation a few times and you won't be confused anymore.

Slang is a bit harder, it can be harder to parse and it really does vary from place to place, but there's no way for you to learn SoCal slang anyway, so it doesn't really matter which of the two you choose.

I'd go with Latin American just to save yourself a bit of hassle, but even if you go the other way you won't be massively handicapped or anything.
posted by zug at 9:22 AM on June 19, 2011

I'd get Latin America. The most distinct difference is the use of the second person. You won't run into people using vosotros in Southern Cali, and they'll probably laugh if you do. Similarly for the various differences in accent and word usage. You won't have problems being understood in many cases, though.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:25 AM on June 19, 2011

Latin American. Hands down. If you want to learn it because you'll be in SoCal, Latin American is the way to go.
posted by gramcracker at 9:58 AM on June 19, 2011

yep - I definitely vote "Latin American" -- does it say what dialect it is? I speak Spanish, do medical interpretation, and goddamn sometimes I run into a Venezuelan or Cuban and I am lost, lost, lost. but i sincerely doubt they would do that.

having traveled both mexico and spain, and some seriously overthinking from someone who's degree is in linguistics:
in spain, people make fun of you for having a mexican accent. i changed my pronunciation and dug into the recesses of my brain for different verb conjugations for my time there. there is also a fair amount of racism/prejudice against people from the Americas, in my experience there.
in mexico/SoCal, people make fun of you for a spanish accent. people are people no matter where you go .. but I changed the way I talked real fast both times. there's also a lot of Guatemalans in the US, and I find that distinctively different when I'm talking with a patient.

also: "Spanish" dialect encompasses a whole hell of a lot of differences in pronunciation and verb differences and vocabulary. I imagine the only serious difference that Rosetta stone deals with is the "vosotros" form, pronunciation/accent differences, and the weird way of doing past subjunctive with an "s" instead of an "r".

ultimately: i found that speaking a fairly mexican dialect, i was still pretty darn understood in spain. however, castillian spanish in mexico ... i was not as understood. another issue is that a fair amount of immigrants from the Americas have indigenous backgrounds and actually speak Spanish as their second or third language... so at least you're all in the same boat, there.
posted by circle_b at 10:18 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I say Latin American Spanish, because it's not all that different and it's way cooler sounding. I agree that it's like the difference between British and American English... Spain Spanish sounds overly formal to me.

Plus, like everyone is saying, for SoCal you definitely want LA Spanish.

If you go to Spain, once you pick up on the accent you will understand everything the same. I lived in Spain for a couple months and got by absolutely fine with the Spanish I learned in Panama... plus, it's different in every country, and no matter where you end up going, you'll have to adapt.
posted by queens86 at 10:29 AM on June 19, 2011

As circle_b says, the issue isn't really comprehensibility but cultural/class perception, and you should pick the variant that embeds the least hassle (and perceived affectation) based upon where you're definitely planning to use it. The things that you'll need to "unlearn" aren't that huge.
posted by holgate at 10:39 AM on June 19, 2011

Aside from actually going to Spain, anywhere else you go, you'll be waaay more likely to meet Latinamerican spanish speakers, specially in California and the rest of the US, but also when you travel. Spain spanish is very particular, and not so related to the more generic (in a sense that it's easily relatable to people from Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, etc.) Latinamerica spanish.

Disclaimer: I'm mexican.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:20 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd vote for Latin American Spanish. All of my Spanish teachers have been Latin American, yet I still have trouble understanding various Latin American accents and no problems at all understanding Spanish ones.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:15 PM on June 19, 2011

It's not really that "confusing", in my opinion.

Latin American Spanish does not use the special "Usted" verb form, and there are some minor and easily corrected pronunciation differences (which I don't find are reflected in materials for the different dialects, anyway). I studied Spanish for five years as a teenager, first with a Latin American teacher and later with a Valencian teacher. Aside from the latter's insistence that we acknowledge the existence of the "Usted" verb endings* there was really no difference.

If you want to actually use your Spanish, you should study Latin American Spanish. But then in my experience Castilian Spanish isn't incomprehensible to Latin American Spanish speakers. They'll just "correct" your pronunciation more.

*FWIW at this point I wish I'd had the "mother country" teacher first, as I have never been able to force the "Usted" forms into my brain in the way that most other aspects of elementary Spanish grammar are firmly affixed. But this is not going to be an issue for you, obviously.
posted by Sara C. at 5:45 PM on June 19, 2011

my boyfriend's family is colombian, and he's a fluent speaker. there have been moments when he's not understood a single word in a conversation happening in mexican or cuban spanish. i'd look into what "latin american" actually means before choosing.
posted by patricking at 7:16 PM on June 19, 2011

Are you confusing usted with vosotros, Sara C. ? Because usted/ustedes are forms used in Latin America. Usted is used in Spain, but usteded is not, plural becomes vosotros with its own conjugation.

Anyhow, as someone who is of Puerto Rican background, studied with instructors from Spain, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, non-native US speakers, also studied in Madrid, and has worked in translation with various dialects and regionalisms, I would probably recommend going with the Latin American course in your particular scenario.

You can get by modulating your accent a little bit if you go to Spain (I was frequently taken for a local while in Madrid, because I can speak like one), but in many places in Latin America, as pointed out upthread, there is a class connotation with different accents. Some Spanish accents can be seen by some as snobbish in a sense. Not a fair treatment, but such are stereotypes. But while there are many different types of Spanish accents (and multiple languages spoken within Spain itself, which is another story), there are many more Latin Americans and people of Latin American descent here in the US. And if this is where your family will primarily use the language skills, then that's an advantage.

Eventually, as you become more fluent, it becomes easier to pick up regional slang and also words that are perfectly innocent in one area but completely not innocent in others. Personally, I will use different words depending on who I am talking to (using Puerto Rican words with my grandparents, for instance, or addressing Spanish people with vosotros. Though, even years after leaving Madrid, I am still stuck saying "vale" sometimes -- that means 'okay, good').

Latin American for now, I'd say. If you wish to pick up vosotros later or heck, "sos" from Argentina, that can always come later.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:22 PM on June 19, 2011

Thank you, everyone. You all helped me. I'm getting the Spanish (Latin America) version. And we'll be doing other things to practice Spanish too.
posted by Ellemeno at 10:30 PM on June 19, 2011

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