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Spanish Dialects and Translation

When you translate Spanish you must remember there are different Spanish Dialects. Learning more about dialects can be important when working with language translation.

Spanish is spoken by almost 400 million people worldwide in 21 different countries. Pronunciation and usage of the spoken Spanish language varies between countries, but regional differences are not so great as to make the language unintelligible to speakers from different areas.

The difference between European Spanish and any one variety of Latin American Spanish is about the same as the difference between British English and American English.

If your audience speaks Latin American Spanish they should easily understand Castilian Spanish or Neutral Spanish.


What is a Dialect?

A Dialect means that in a certain area the speech may vary a little. The dialect usually applies to the vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation characteristic of specific geographic localities or social classes.

English Dialects / American English compared to UK English

To understand dialects more let's look at English, there are many different dialects but if you know English you can still understand the different dialects. For example in England you can easily pick up a British newspaper and read it, but there are some words that have different meanings. For example, they may say the sentence, "I am going to move into a my flat this weekend. In America we would say, "I am moving into my apartment this weekend". They simply use the word "flat" instead of "apartment" but you can get the idea of what they are saying.

In Systran's Software we have built in the ability to translate using UK (British English) or American English.

Spanish Dialects: Castilian (Castillian), Mexican Spanish, Puerto Rico (Puerto Rican) Spanish

There are several Spanish dialects. The two major ones are Castilian and Latin American Spanish, which includes Mexican and Puerto Rician. Castilian Spanish is spoken in Spain and in some of its territories and former colonies. Latin-American Spanish is spoken in Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. Other Spanish dialects are Andalusian, Murcian, Aragonese, Navarrese, Leonese, and Canary Islands Spanish.

Castilian Spanish Dialect / Neutral Spanish

Castilian Spanish is also called Neutral Spanish because it is so widely accepted. The most popular and the accepted standard is the Castillian Spanish Dialect. You will find books, movie and radio programs are translated into Castillian dialect if it will be distributed world wide. If you are developing materials for the Spanish market you will most likely want to translate it into the Castilian dialect.

Speaking Spanish Dialects and the Written Dialect

The differences in dialects are less in the written text than they are in the spoken language. Spanish has far fewer regional variations. As a result, dialect turns out not to be a big issue when you are doing text.

Popular Spanish Dialects in the United States

Even though Mexican Spanish, Cuban and Puerto Rico are all part of the Latin American dialect, there are still differences.

Mexican Spanish

Southern California and Texas - According to the 2000 census, more than 20 million Mexican Americans live in the United States, comprising 7.3% of the total population—making them the largest subgroup of the biggest minority group in this country.1,2 The Mexican American population is also growing rapidly, having doubled between l980 and 2000, after nearly doubling from 1970 to 1980.3

Cuban Spanish

New York , New Jersey, California and Florida - The Cuban Americans are considered the oldest population of Hispanic immigrants in the United States. Most of the Cuban Americans today live in , New York , New Jersey, California and Florida, although some smaller groups may be found in other locations within the US.

Puerto Rican Spanish

New York and Florida - You will find the largest concentration of Puerto Rician Americans in New York and Forida. The Puerto Rican dialect is very similar to Cuban dialect and will also be close to the Venezuelans, Canary Islanders and Andalusians in southern Spain.

Latin American Spanish

Latin American Spanish is the most common dialect spoken by Hispanic people in the United States and Spanish-speaking people in Latin American countries are very similar with few differences. Latin American Spanish is spoken in about countries and even though each has its accents, slang and popular expressions any Spanish speaker can still speak and read Castillian or Neutral Spanish.

What is Localization?

Localization is when you modify the translation for a certain dialect. Learn more about Spanish Localization

Systran's Translation Software uses International Spanish Dialect

Systran's translation software provides you with two choices, Castilian Spanish and International Spanish. The later is a unique blend of dialects that is referred to as an "International Dialect". This is accomplished through the ability to control the built in dictionaries and linguistic rules. You can easily customize the Spanish translation to another dialect by training the software to recognize different words for another dialect by building your own custom dictionaries, building translation memory and more. For example, you can easily create a "Mexican Dialect" dictionary.

Overall the differences between the Spanish dialects of Europe and Latin America with reference to pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar are relatively minor so if you translate with the software usually a person that speaks the language can understand the minor differences.

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