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Sound like a local: how to adjust to Madrileño Spanish

Languages are alive, just like the people who speak them. That’s why over time regions start developing their own dialects. Even your group of friends has their own unique way of communicating. You only notice the downside of the fluidity of language when you’re traveling. If you’re trying to pick up Spanish, for example, you’re going to hear a lot of differences across Latin America and in Spain. To help adjust to the Spanish way of speaking during your internship in Madrid, check out our handy guide on how to speak Castilian Spanish and you’ll sound like a local in no time.


Tip #1: Vosotros is actually a thing here

Using the form “ustedes” to refer to “you guys” or “you all” in Spain is actually very formal. The second person plural form, unless in an extremely formal context, should be conjugated in the “vosotros” form.

Example: How are you guys? = Cómo estáis? NOT Cómo están?


Tip #2: Prepare your teeth

Many (incorrectly) say that the Spanish speak with a lisp – or “ceceo”. That’s because the soft “c” and “z” sounds in Spain are pronounced like the “th” sound in English.

Example: “Cecilia le gustan las cerezas” sounds like “Thethilia le gustan therethas”.


Tip #3: Everyone is your uncle

Spaniards are so open and friendly, it does kind of feel like everyone is one big family. But when you hear a Spaniard saying “tia” or “tio” they are likely not talking to their aunt or uncle. It’s just a way of saying “dude”, “man” or “guy” or “girl”.


how to speak castilian spanish


Tip #4: Get used to hearing “vale”

Instead of “dale”, “de acuerdo”, “bueno”, “Ok” and any other number of expressions that basically mean “fine”, Spaniards overwhelmingly opt for the word “vale”. It’s easy to learn and will come in handy all the time. Vale?


Tip #5: “Español” doesn’t mean what you think it means

You can hear five different languages in Spain: Galician, Catalan, Basque, Aranese and Castilian. All of these languages are spoken by Spaniards in Spain. The language commonly known as “Spanish” is actually called “Castellano” or Castilian.


Tip #6: The vocab can be totally different

There are many little differences between the vocabulary used in Spain and Latin America. For example, many words in Spain have not been anglicized like in Latin America, which means they sound less like the English word. For example, Spaniards use the word “ordenador” instead of “computadora”. The following are some examples of Spanish vocabulary you don’t hear as often in Latin America:

Pen: Boligrafo

Strawberries: Fresas

Cool!: Que guay!

Straw (to drink out of): Pajita

Bathrooms: Aseos, Servicios


how to speak castilian spanish


Tip #7: “Coger” is a useful word here – even though it can get you in trouble in South America

If you need someone to pass you something, the phrase “Cógeme (insert item here), por favor” will come in handy. Just avoid using the phrase in Latin America – you will get some strange looks.


Nearly 10 million YouTube viewers agree…

Spanish can vary so much depending on which part of the world you’re in. These cheeky Colombians (pretending to be English speakers) wrote a whole song called, “Que dificil es hablar el español” which shows how one word in one country can mean something completely different in another.



Now that you know how to speak Castilian Spanish, apply now and boost your career with an internship in Madrid!



Photo 1. based on Madrid, by Surreal Name Given, CC-by-2.0

Photo 2. based on Mr Señor, by r2hox, CC-by-2.0

Image 3. based on Madrid, by Calvin Smith, CC-by-2.0

Photos and blog by admin

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!