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Mexican Spanish: Some Observations About its Pronunciation

written by: Eric W. Vogt • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 2/14/2012

The Spanish spoken in Mexico is probably the one most people in the US are familiar with, if they live west of the Mississippi. It is one of the major dialects of Spanish and wields a great deal of linguistic influence because of its movie industry. Learn more about how our neighbors speak.

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    Spanish -- Down Mexico Way...

    Most people in the US probably get their impression of how Mexican Spanish sounds from Speedy Gonzalez. The only truth about Speedy that is interesting and relevant to this article is that the great voice man, the late Mel Blanc (Looney Tunes) did a lot of research into the characters he did, particularly the ones with a regional or ethnic flavor. Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn and especially Bugs Bunny, were all based on certain idiosyncrasies of American English and its regional varieties. Mr. Blanc reported that when he was working on a voice for Speedy, he was immediately drawn to the English as spoken by Mexicans in Northern Baja California for his inspiration. This is logical, since Speedy was attired like a Mexican cowboy (sort of) and Mr. Blanc was in Southern California in the studios. Whenever Speedy says anything in Spanish,it is with that regional variety of Mexican Spanish.

    There are a few generalities one can state about Spanish as it is spoken in Mexico. First, that they speak very clearly. They articulate their S sounds just as we do in the US. They tend not to drop intervocalic or final consonants as many other dialects do (even in Spain). Mexicans as a group do not mumble or chew their words. They are energetic speakers and take pride in good diction; even people who are illiterate speak clearly for the most part.

    One thing that makes Mexican Spanish a challenge has nothing to do with Spanish. The large number of native words, from Aztec, Mayan, Mixtec, Tarascan and dozens of other indigenous people can make Mexican Spanish difficult for other Spanish speakers. In fact, there are so many native words in Mexican Spanish that there is a separate Diccionario de Mexicanismos -- as thick as the American Heritage hardbound dictionary!

    How can you tell if someone speaks Mexican Spanish? There is one word that all Mexicans use that is uniquely Mexican (no, I'm not thinking of that one), and that is the use of ¿mande? (MAHN-deh) when they want someone to repeat something. They also answer the phone with ¿bueno?, but that is not quite so definitive as a marker of Mexican Spanish.

References

  • Author's more than 20 years experience teaching and translating Spanish.