Knowing when and where to use the informal Spanish is subtle. For example, our best friends in Mexico are David and Teresa… my wife talks to Teresa in informal Spanish, but she address Teresa’s husband David in formal Spanish.
Reason: She doesn’t want to be so presumptuous as to speak casually to
the husband of una amiga.
Yet, with our other friends Millie and Juan José, Elena speaks casually to them both.
Reason: Juan José is about 10 years younger than David and closer to Elena’s age. As he’s closer to Elena’s age, (Actually, he’s about 5 years younger than Elena, but don’t tell her I told you) she feels OK speaking to the husband of una amiga informally.
There’s no hard and fast rule as to where and when to use informal Spanish. It will vary from family to family, region to region and from situation to situation.
Teresa is a cleaner; she came from a very poor family in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. She started work at 9 years old picking vegetables in the fields. Millie’s husband is from a wealthy family, he trained as a doctor and then did years of specialty training in Cuba in sports medicine.
Yet, Millie and Juan José are the more casual couple; Teresa and David are the more polite and respectful. Income or social status is no indication of how people will speak.
Here are the rules I use…
I speak to children informally
I speak to people my age or younger informally if it’s a social situation
I speak to older people formally.
Everyone else, I listen to how they speak to me. If they speak to me informally, I do the same. If they speak to me formally, I also do the same unless they are very young.
I have made some free informal Spanish audio lessons available…
They are an add-on to Synergy Spanish, however as long as you know the basics of Spanish you’ll be able to start practicing using the informal form.