With so many different Spanish speaking countries, how can one determine what “correct” Spanish is? A while back, I wrote an article called The Dialect Divide: Argentina vs. Puerto Rico, which addresses some of the differences in the Spanish I speak and the Spanish my Puerto Rican boyfriend speaks. This is a deeper look at what exactly determines the “correctness” of the Spanish language.
What is Correct Spanish?: Spoken vs. Written
This is a huge factor. When a language is spoken, it bends, morphs, and eases up on the rules. Think about English. Do you always say “can I go?” or do you sometimes slur it all together making it sound more like “caigo?” You probably also say “I wanna go,” but would you ever write it that way? Probably not. Now let’s take a look at a sentence in Spanish: “El carro está al lado de la casa” (The car is next to the house). There are two parts of this sentence I want to take a look at: carro and al lado.
Carro means car, but you could also say coche or auto. None of these are more correct than the other. However, some countries would pronounce this word “car-ro,” which is how a textbook would tell you to pronounce it, while other countries might say “cajo.”
Puerto Ricans can pronounce their “r” in two ways. It might sound like a soft “j” in words such as “perro” (pronounced “pejo”) or “rabo” (pronounced “jabo”). That phenomenon is only present in Puerto Rico and it is call r velar or r arrastrada colloquially. The other form of pronunciation occurs when the “r” is neutralized by an “l,” like in the word “amor” that is changed to “amol.” But if asked to spell out those words, they still spell it correctly.
Similarly, a Puerto Rican, Chilean or Panamanian might drop the “d” between vowels. For example, “al lado” simply becomes “al lao.” However, if they were asked to write it out, they write “al lado.”
So are they wrong? In my opinion, they’re not. I attribute the pronunciation changes to their accent, and focus on how they would write it to judge correctness.
Languages are always changing
Since languages are constantly changing, how can we pinpoint exact correctness? For example, “Google” is now a word in the English dictionary, but who is to make the rules of conjugation? While it may not yet exist in Spanish dictionaries, Spanish speakers obviously use Google as well. Some might say “usé Google” (I used Google) or “busqué en Google” (I searched on Google) but others might simply turn Google into a verb and say “Googlié, goo-gul-ié,”or some other similar variation. Is there truly a way to determine which one is the “most correct?”
Here is an update that back-up this point: On September 2012, the Royal Academy of Spanish Language announced that the term “tuit” (Spanish for tweet) will be included in the next edition of their dictionary. Click the image on the right to see the graphic with additional Twitter terms in Spanish.
I mentioned leísmo in my article 4 Grammar Hints to Speak like a Spaniard. Leísmo involves using the indirect pronoun “le” instead of the masculine direct object pronoun “lo.” Leísmo is technically grammatically incorrect, but it is widely accepted as part of the Spanish dialect. So is it correct or incorrect? As a Spaniard and a Mexican and you might get two different answers.
So what are your thoughts? Do you think it is possible to determine “correctness” in most cases, or is the ever-changing language that is used in so many countries across the globe subject to interpretation?
Check out these other articles about the Spanish Language.