When I learned French, I chose to learn it from France. Even though French is spoken in certain places all over the globe as an official language, I told myself that France is the birthplace of the language; and hence, I wanted to learn it in its "purest form." This was my frame of thinking.
I have no regrets since then. And I am able to understand French spoken anywhere without any problems in making myself understood. In this instance, learning French in France has served me well.
But learning Spanish from Spain has been a whole other story.
So, I decided to do the same with Spanish. I wanted to learn Spanish in the birthplace of the language - Spain. But after having been here in Spain for almost a year and taken significant strides in my Spanish language learning - my stance on the subject has changed.
I realize that I was greatly mistaken. Spanish is not like French. Like France, Spain had colonies in different parts of the world, so there are many countries today that have Spanish as an official language. But geographically speaking, the number of people who speak Spanish as a native language trumps the number of French speakers in the world, and this shows itself not just in the diversity of the varied accents, but also in the varied dialects of Spanish spoken within different Hispanic countries.
I had a racist Spanish house-mate who would viciously tell me that I should ONLY study Spanish from Spain because if not it wasn't "real" Spanish. But that was just her prejudiced viewpoint. That is like someone from England saying that the English spoken in the USA or Australia is not real English. It is real English - it has just evolved differently due to geographical disparity. And if one learns English in New York, she will be able to understand English spoken in South Africa. And likewise, the Spanish spoken in the various Latin-American countries is very real and authentic. Any Spaniard who claims to not be able to understand Latin-American Spanish (and yes, some do) has a mental block rooted in arrogance and ignorance. Other than the occasional word, sort of how we would have "Bin" from England and "Trashcan" from the USA, the differences are not significant enough to impede effective communication.
And what does that even mean really? Spanish from Spain versus Spanish from Latin-America?
In choosing to learn Spanish from Spain, I had chosen to learn a form of Spanish that entailed the Vosotros form. A form that is only used in Spain.
Vosotros is pretty much You in non formal plural form. This might seem like a trivial note but Spanish being a language with a complex system of grammar - this little detail does change a lot of things.
This opens up a whole array of conjugations that one must learn when speaking the language.
In Latin American Spanish, Vosotros does not exist. Ustedes is the form that is employed.
Spain Latin - America (mostly)
Do you see the seemingly slight but kind of major difference now?
Every single verb employed in Spanish from Spain will use a form of Vosotros when speaking non formally to a group of people. While in Latin-American Spanish Ustedes will be used.
It may not seem like a big deal, but do you know how many more words that would mean for you to learn? Hundreds. And would the extra effort be worth it?
Epiphany - Latin American Spanish wins over Spanish from Spain
Spain is one sole country in the Hispanic world, and the only one that employs Vosotros form. Hence, learning Spanish from Spain can lead to a grammatical pigeon-hole and I see now that it was not such a great idea. Latin American countries do not use Vosotros at all, they use Ustedes. And being that they make up pretty much the entire Hispanic world other than Spain, and collectively keep gaining more and more influence as the Spanish economy continues to spiral downward - I think it makes better sense to employ their form of Spanish using the Ustedes form.
What's more, most Spanish learners from the USA, and from Brazil, also learn Latin American Spanish with the Ustedes form because of the geographic proximity - and both of these countries are major players in the world (Brazil "emerging" while the US maintains its status).
Ustedes is more Universal
When I use Ustedes form with Spaniards, they understand me since Ustedes also exists in Spanish from Spain.
On the other hand, Vosotros does not exist in Latin American Spanish so when I use Vosotros form with Latin Americans, they do not understand me at all. Even Argentina which is a country apart in Latin America (with more European (Italian) influences and the Tu eres form of Vos sos) uses Ustedes!
I prefer to use a form that everybody in the Spanish-speaking world understands.
But this is my opinion, and my choice.
Ustedes is less work
And did I mention that Latin American Spanish is easier to learn???? Take out Vosotros and you take out a whole chunk of grammar that you no longer need to learn. And when you need to learn how to conjugate that in subjunctive tense, or use it as a negative imperative command - it is can get bothersome.
Ustedes form is so much easier because the same conjugation form is used for You (plural), You (plural formal) and They!
Some may think that it can get confusing but the context of what is being said usually takes care of itself.
Latin American Accents
Personally, I find the various Latin American accents to be more pleasing to the ear than the various Spanish ones. I prefer the "s" sounding pronunciation of "z" and "c" over the "th" lisp sound found in most of Spain. Latin American Spanish is more melodic to my ears than the machine gun phrasing found in Spain. I generally prefer the intonations, musicality and diverse array of colloquialisms within their various expressions of Castellano. I quite like accents from Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Costa Rica, even Argentina with their "sh" sound for "ll" an "y," - and each for different reasons! It's all beautiful to behold.
So although, I am not gifted when it comes to improving my accent when speaking foreign languages, if I could mimic an accent, it would be one from Latin America.
Latin America has more language resources
I am learning Spanish on my own using various creative self learning methods. Initially, on taking the bad advice from my previously mentioned house-mate, I made a point to pursue learning materials that principally entailed Spanish from Spain. But it was so limiting as Spain is just one country, and here in Spain, majority of what is seen on television, is either bought from the US and dubbed into a bizarre inhuman sounding Spanish, or taken directly form Latin-America.
Fortunately, although, I had made the conscious decision to lean Spanish from Spain, I wanted to be able to understand any Spanish speaker from any part of the world since my main reason for learning Spanish at all was to connect with the African Diaspora within the Hispanic world (Afro-Latinos!). So I would venture out into Latin America media. And the material is unlimited!!! With all the telenovelas, music, amazing authors, documentaries - it is just fabulous! I could never run out of resources!
And to be honest, this is the true total immersion that has taken my Spanish to the level that it is today, not my being in Spain. Ironically, I am becoming fluent in Lain-American Spanish while living in Spain and I kind of like it that way.
I guess it's cool that since I have already learned Vosotros, that I am able to understand it when heard, but once I leave Spain, I probably won't be hearing it at all so I am now making the conscious decision to replace Vosotros with Ustedes in my head.
But again, this is where I stand. What you decide to do is up to you.
What are your reasons for learning Spanish? What are your personal tastes and preferences in regards to Spanish? The answers to these questions will help you make your own decision.
Here are two great free resources for learning both Latin-American Spanish and Spanish from Spain.
I wish you a great language learning journey!