Because Spanish is the de facto or official language of 21 countries (plus Puerto Rico), not all Spanish dialects sound the same.
Cultural, historical and geographical influences have resulted in grammatical and linguistic differences among the varieties of Spanish. Some are hardly noticeable, while others make an immediate impression.
With millions of Spanish speakers around the world, determining the proper Spanish dialect for interpreting services can be a proposition muy difícil.
Castellano, or Castilian, is the form of the Spanish language as developed and spoken in Madrid and northern Spain.
Its name is derived from the former kingdom of Castile, which merged with neighboring territories to become Spain. The name also serves to further differentiate it from languages spoken in other regions of Spain, like Catalan, Basque and Galician.
A unique characteristic of Castilian as opposed to other forms of Spanish is the pronunciation of the letters “ci” or “ce” as a “th” sound when they are together. That’s the “th” in “thing,” by the way, not the sound you hear in “the.” In Latin America, the word “gracias” is pronounced “gras-see-as” (remember your high school Spanish lessons?), whereas the Castilian dialect pronounces it as “grah-thee-as.”
Latin American Spanish
Sometimes called “highland Spanish” because of its prevalence in the mountainous areas of Latin America, Latin American Spanish represents the Castilian dialect brought over from 16th century Spain. As Spain’s contact with the region diminished, the influence of the native languages of Latin America on Castilian Spanish created a unique dialect all its own.
This dialect is noted for its harder “r” sounds and emphasis on the pronunciation of each letter of a word. Most of the Latin American dialect also lacks the informal second-person plural pronoun “vosotros” (you all, all of you) that is used in most of Spain, instead replacing it with the formal “ustedes.”
The Caribbean Spanish dialect evolved from the language spoken by traders and sailors of southern Spain as they passed through the Caribbean and nearby Latin American coasts.
Around the 17th century, speakers that had arrived from the Andalusia region of Spain began dropping “s” sounds from the ends of their words. This enabled a quickening of speech in the Spanish spoken in the Caribbean and in turn, led to the development of a dialect noted for its rapid pace and informality as compared to similar dialects.
The Audience Makes All the Difference
With all these subtly different dialects, you need to keep your listeners in mind when arranging Spanish interpreting services. Interpreting a speech for an audience from Barcelona isn’t going to sound the same as interpreting performed for an Colombian crowd, so it’s helpful to know your audience and what they’ll be expecting.
Even though speakers of different Spanish dialects are able to understand one another, it’s necessary to be aware of the nuances in vocabulary and grammar that allow interpreters to communicate in the most effective way.
Professional Spanish interpreters who understand the importance of pronunciation and vocabulary for your target audience can help make speeches and presentations run more smoothly. By employing interpreters who speak in the appropriate Spanish dialect, you keep the interpreting familiar and consistent — and that’s music to everyone’s ears.