Spanish is the alleged language of most Latin American countries, although the greatest number of Latin Americans actually speak a version of Portuguese. Yep, more Brazilians (Latin Americans from the largest country in the category) speaking Portuguese exist than there are members of the rest of the countries together. I say “alleged” due to the fact that “Spanish” as spoken in Latin America is actually comprised of a wide variety of local dialects that differ significantly one from the other.
Just in Colombia there is a wide variety of dialects. If one were to include the diverse dialects of the varying regions of the other countries in the category of Latin America, the variations boggle the mind. Attempting to portray them in written format is daunting (to the point where I’ve never even attempted to do so). Listening to them can lead one to assume they are speaking completely different languages. It’s similar to listening to an Indian allegedly speaking the Queens English in a YouTube video, only worse.
Years ago we were moving to the city of Barranquilla. There they have the quaint custom of having some person with a one burner stove and a roll up mattress live in a house that’s being offered for rent. You see the sign, walk up, knock on the door (or ring the bell if the domicile is so equipped) and engage the person within in conversation in order to gain the pertinent information regarding the required documents and financial outlay necessary to rent the place.
So, I walked up to a likely looking place in a nice part of town and knocked. The door was opened by a person of short stature and dark complexion who proceeded to vocalize some sort of greeting – I assumed, as it was like nothing I’d ever heard before. I replied in my best Spantuguese – or was it Portish? (referring to my own dialect at the time that resulted from learning Colombian Spanish from the people around me as I transferred my communication ability from Brazil to Colombia) Neither of us really understood the other. She did allow me to enter and look around and so I could determine that the place was not up to what we were seeking. I thanked her and went on my merry way reflecting on this thing we call language. Although we were allegedly speaking the same language, she was from some interior area of Colombia’s Caribbean coast and I was from another country entirely and had learned my Spanish in the coffee growing interior of Colombia. We really needed an interpreter.
That reminds me of the time I traveled with my uncle and aunt from northern central Brazil to Santiago de Chile. Somewhere down in Minas Gerais or São Paulo we stopped for fuel and to pick up ice for the cooler. As the vehicle was being topped off I inquired of the person in charge of the pumps as to where we might obtain some ice. At that point in time my Portuguese was flawless, with only a trace of an accent that no Brazilian could really pin down. Up north they assumed I was from down south and vice versa. But I came across this station employee who was apparently from the back of beyond and spoke Mineiro (the allegedly Portuguese dialect from the interior of Minas Gerais) and we ended up having to ask a Paulista (from the state of São Paulo) to translate for us.
In today’s connected society with people viewing videos on YouTube as well as movies and television programs produced in diverse places, the multitudinous dialects are shrinking in number of people who use them exclusively. I suspect this is true of about any large language group. It started with radio back in the early 20th Century and as we move deeper into the 21st Century we see it even more.