Castilian, although recognized throughout the world as Spanish is the regional language of the Castile area of Spain and Madrid is its capital. Madrid is also the financial and administrative center of Spain as well as the country’s capital, so it is understandable that the administrative decision makers of the time decided upon Castilian as the national language with little consideration given to Spain’s other regional languages.
Understandably, there is some indignation from the other regions of Spain, because they feel that Castilian has been forced upon them. Spain is a country whose population defends fiercely many different regional identities, from the Basques in the north of Spain, through the Catalan speaking region of Barcelona and then down through the Valencian speaking province of “Comunitat Valenciana” before arriving in Andalucia. For your information, the Comunitat Valenciana has a population of over five million people on the eastern coast of Spain and the primary language taught in public schools is Valencian not Castilian!
However, this brief transgression about the different Spanish languages, although interesting, is stopping us talking about the varying pronunciations in Spanish. So we shall start with the Spanish “lisp”. The “lisping” pronunciation of “z”, and of “c” before “e” or “i” is usual in Castilian Spanish which as mentioned previously is the adopted base language of Spanish, however when visiting certain parts of Spain and in many parts of South America, the letters “z” and “c” before “e” or “i”, take on a more English “s” sound.
Another common pronunciation you will hear is that of “v” like a “b”, for example la vaca (the cow) is pronounced [lah baka], this is perfectly acceptable and when you utilize Spanish audio material you will hear this pronunciation used throughout, whether in Latin America or Spain.
Two that should be avoided are the pronunciation of the final “d” like “th” as in the English word “myth” for example “la tempestad” (the storm) which would be pronounced [lah tem-pes-tath] the other variation with the letter “d” is when it appears in the middle of a word like “madre” (mother). This is also pronounced like “th” but as in the English word “then”, so madre would be pronounced [mah-thray] rather than [mah-dray], but as stated these pronunciations are best avoided.
Finally, the letter “ll” is pronounced in several ways. “ll” is usually pronounced as [l’y] as in million but, as mentioned in part 3, the “l” sound is dropped in some parts of Spain and South America so the word for butter, “mantequilla” would be pronounced [mant-ay-kee-ya].
This about covers the varying punctuations you are likely to encounter although there will be many more regional differences that are best left until later in your studies. All of the pronunciation issues covered here are far more easily understood when using Spanish language audio software.