Español de Canarias

8 Curiosities about the Spanish of the Canary Islands

Introduction to the curiosities of Canary Islands Spanish

Due to its geographical location, the Canary Islands have always been a strategic connection point between Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Because of this, the way of life and the Canarian dialect are the result of the blending of many cultures. In this article, we’ll explore the peculiarities of this dialect, its origin, and the characteristics that make it so special.

Curiosities of Canary Islands Spanish: A bit of history


From the arrival of the first aborigines from Africa to the present day, the islands have always been a chosen place for many people to spend long periods or live. Not in vain, they are known as the “Fortunate Islands” ?

That’s why our way of speaking is influenced by:

  • Indigenous (yes, surprisingly, Guanche words are still preserved)

  • Some parts of Spain, such as Andalusia or Galicia

  • Other countries like Portugal, England, or Ireland.

But if there’s one place that has been in constant contact with the Canary Islands since they were conquered by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain (15th century), it’s Latin America, especially Cuba and Venezuela.

For this reason, our accent is more similar to that of Latin American countries than to the rest of Spain, and knowing it will help you understand more than 60 million Spanish-speaking inhabitants in America.

Curiosities about Canarian Spanish

1st Curiosity : Seseo

We don’t distinguish between “Z,” “C,” and “S.” We pronounce all these letters as “S.” For example, the word “taza” sounds the same as “tasa,” and “caza” is pronounced the same as “casa.” We also vocalize the “e” in “cine” as “sine.”

If you think about it, it’s easier for someone studying Spanish ? 😃

2nd Curiosity: la “J” y la “G” ( ge y gi)

We pronounce “J” and “G” (ge and gi)  softer than in the rest of Spain, especially in the northern half of the Peninsula. It’s a sound similar to the “h” in English in “have” (/h/).

This is one of the reasons why the Canarian accent is said to be melodious.

3rd Curiosity: “Ustedes” Always and Everywhere

Just like in America and some parts of Andalusia, we don’t use “vosotros” here. Instead, we always use “ustedes,” whether it’s a formal or informal context (with family, friends, etc.).

So, instead of saying “Vosotros sois muy simpáticos,” we say “Ustedes son muy simpáticos.”

This way of speaking can sometimes confuse people who are not familiar with our language. They might think that using “ustedes” makes us sound too formal, but that’s far from the Canarian character!

The exception is on the Island of La Gomera and in some isolated parts of La Palma, where they do distinguish between “ustedes” and “vosotros.”

4th Curiosity: Aspirated ” S” 

We also shorten the letter “S” at the end of words; we say it but don’t pronounce the whole thing, just a part. This is known as aspirated “S,” and we pronounce it as if there’s an English “h” at the end of the word.

In words like “antes,” “lejos,” “jamás,” or plural forms like “flores,” “mesas,” the “S” sounds shorter than in the rest of Spain.

However, this rule doesn’t apply on the Island of El Hierro; the people there pronounce the “S” longer than other Canarians.

5th Curiosity: Use of Diminutives ( _ ito /_ ita)  

People say Canarians are affectionate, and it’s true. We use diminutives a lot in our daily life. In Spanish, diminutives indicate small size, little importance, or express affection.

For example, the diminutive of “casa” (house) could be: casiña, casina, casilla, casica, or casita.

In the Canary Islands, we use “-ito/-ita” frequently, and many find it charming. They think we sound very sweet when we speak, and they’re right! Ha ha ha.

6th Curiosity:  Canarian words (Canarismos)

The Canary Islands have been a meeting place for many cultures throughout history, and our vocabulary reflects that. We have

Guanchismos: Words from the indigenous languages transmitted orally. Some refer to places, while others are common words.

  • Gofio: Toasted and ground cereal flour used in many Canarian dishes.
  • Baifo: Baby goat, also called “cabrito.”
  • Tajinaste: Conical-shaped shrub covered in flowers; there are many types in the Canaries, red, white, blue, etc.

Lusismos: Words from Portuguese and Galician.

  • Millo: Corn, similar to the Spanish word but pronounced differently.
  • Mojo: You probably know this. It’s a sauce with various types in the Canaries.

Anglicismos: Words from English due to interactions with English and Irish people.

  • Queque: Commonly used in Las Palmas and means cake, from the English “cake.”

Americanismos: Words from Latin America, some influenced by English.

  • Cotufa:  Popcorn, likely from “corn to fry” in Venezuela.
  • Papa: Potato, from Quechua, used in the Canaries and some parts of Andalusia.
  • Guagua: Bus, also used in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Its origin is unclear, with theories linking it to English “wagon.”

7th Curiosity : Very Canarian Expressions

We use idiomatic expressions unique to the islands, not found in Spanish learning books. For example:

  • Irse el baifo: Forget something, get distracted. Literally, it means the baby goat escapes, referring to a valuable possession.
  • Fos: Disgust.
  • Ños! or Choosss!: Surprise.
  • Chacho/chacha: Boy/girl.

8 Curiosities about the Spanish of the Canary Islands

8th Curiosity: Usted When Angry or Joking 

If you study Spanish in an academy, you might not discover this curiosity. Canarians, when annoyed with a child or pet, sometimes jokingly use “usted.” It’s also used among adults when joking. It’s strange, I know. I’ll talk more about this in future posts.

Every place has its curiosities

In each island and even within each of them, there are different accents and words. For example, La Palma has a more melodic accent, almost like singing, while Gran Canaria’s accent is more guttural, somewhat similar to Cuban.

Even if you speak Spanish well, you might not distinguish the accents of each island. Don’t worry! Even mainland Spaniards struggle. They often think we sound like Argentinians or Venezuelans.

While you might not discern the nuances of each island’s way of speaking, understanding a bit of the language and culture will enhance your experience beyond commercial routes and tourist areas. You’ll discover that the charm of these Fortunate Islands lies not only in their landscapes and beaches but also in the people and experiences you can have with us.

Welcome to the islands!

¡¡HOLA !! 

I’m Marina, from Tenerife, and for years, I’ve been giving online Spanish classes to people worldwide interested in getting to know the islands and life here. My goal is for my students to understand our way of life and connect with the local population. I know you don’t need to improve your Spanish to enjoy our climate, beaches, nature, or cuisine, but if you can’t communicate with us, you’re missing out on the best part: the people and the culture. (Yes, I know we talk very fast!  😜 )

I´m here waiting for you!

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