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April 18, 2016
With more than 400 million native Spanish speakers in the world, the Spanish language is the most widely spoken Romance language both in terms of number of speakers and the number of countries in which it is the dominant language. Naturally among the 400+ million native Spanish speakers there are differences in the usage and pronunciation of the Spanish language however, the regional and international differences are not so great that it makes it unintelligible to speakers from different areas. Due to the evolution of the Spanish language there is no ‘single Spanish’ but instead there are a number of different Spanish dialects.
The Spanish language in Spain and the origin of the different dialects of Spanish in Spain began with the linguistic evolution of Vulgar Latin. Interestingly, the history of the Spanish language in the Americas began with its colonization towards the end of the fifteenth century by which point the Spanish language was firmly consolidated in the Iberian Peninsula. As well as being spoken in Spain, it is also the official language of all the South American nations except Brazil and French Guyana; the six nations of Central America and Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rica. The Spanish language is also spoken in the Balearic and Canary Islands, in parts of Morocco and West Africa as well as in Equatorial Guinea. In the United States, the Spanish language has become the second most spoken language with 45 million Hispanophones who speak Spanish as a first or second language. The United States is now the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world after Mexico and with Hispanic Americans being one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States, American Spanish has never been so important.
From the southernmost tip of the Tierra del Fuego in Argentina to the Rio Grande bordering the United States and Mexico, the Spanish language in Latin America has a number of variants and dialects due to its history and the magnitude of the territory. Due to the number of Spanish speakers residing in the United States, many industry observers now include the United States especially Texas, California and New Mexico as part of the Latin American market. When Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas and brought with him the Castilian Spanish language from mainland Spain, the Spanish language became established as the primary language of the region. The Catholic Church played a vital role in the Hispanicization of the Americas in particular with the Jesuits and Franciscans who developed learning institutions, teaching children Catholicism in Spanish. As the youth of these institutions and Catholicism grew in the region so did the Spanish language.
Despite the initial spread of the Spanish language and the efforts of the Spaniards to impose Castilian Spanish on the natives, the sheer number of natives caused the blend of local dialects with the Spanish of the colonizers. The Spanish language spoken today in Latin America, especially in Mexico and Peru was heavily influenced by the strong culture and dialects of the native population. As Spanish explorers continued to arrive from different parts of mainland Spain, different influences were introduced to the Spanish language of Latin America. Explorers from Andalusia helped shape the pronunciation of Latin American Spanish versus Castilian Spanish which is why Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish sound different even if they have identical spellings. These historical and sociological events have caused the distinct evolution of Latin American Spanish which is spoken today. From deep within the Amazon Rainforest to the peaks of the Andes, from Northern Mexico to the southern tip of Patagonia and from the Pacific coast to the islands of the Caribbean; the difference in the Spanish spoken throughout Latin America can be observed in the various geographical areas of the region.
Due to the sheer number of Spanish language variations in Latin America, effectively translating and localizing for the Latin American market is no small feat. Depending on the size, scale and range of the desired target audience greatly effects the type of Spanish used. For example, a marketing campaign directed across the whole of the Americas would take on a more neutral bearing, avoiding where possible country-specific colloquialisms whereas, a website or clinical research aimed at a specific market would need native translators who understand the quirks, customs and colloquialisms. It is important to understand these subtle differences in the same way that American English and British English vary in their forms, customs and colloquialisms. With a world of difference existing between Mexican and Argentine Spanish, effectively putting your message across to your local audience requires flawless translation servicesfrom professional human translators that understand and appreciate the cultural and linguistic variants of both the Spanish language and Latin American Spanish.
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