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How Do You Say It Best for Spanish Speakers?

September 21, 2018

With over 400 million native speakers, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world. Although naming a language after the country where it was first spoken never guarantees there won't be other languages, 99% of Spaniards speak Spanish as a first or second language, but not the same dialects. In present-day parts of Spain, there are language groups with major differences in speech, intonation, and pronunciation as well as how words and expressions are used in some dialects but are absent in others.

Spanish Dialects Spoken in Spain

Similar to the dialects of American English, groups of native speakers in Spain can be classified by rich cultural influences where there are differences in the way people speak the same language, such as:

  • Castilian - This is the primary dialect of northern and central Spain (Province of Castile) and is often called castellano. In areas of Latin America, the term castellano is preferred over español. Isabella and Ferdinand declared Castilian Spanish to be the official dialect for all educational materials and government documents.
  • Andalusian - The second most popular dialect of Spanish after Castilian, Andalusian is spoken in southern Spain and differs greatly from northern Spanish with major differences in the use of consonants. Andalusian is considered to be a softer, more fluid dialect.
  • Catalan - Spoken in the regions of Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, the dialect is considered to be the official language of Andorra. Like root Spanish, Catalan (or Valencian) is a Romance language that is not a subset of Spanish and is more closely related to French or Italian.
  • Galician - Three million Spaniards living in the northwestern region of Spain speak Galician. As Spain's third most common dialect, Galician is more closely related to Portuguese but shares many similarities with Castilian Spanish, such as spelling and sounds.
  • Basque - Basque is the only living language isolate in Europe with no known historical or linguistic relationship to any other languages. As a language family, it did not descend from nearby Spanish, French or Portuguese and has about 660,000 native speakers.

Spanish Dialects Spoken Elsewhere

The Spanish language has a rich history and is spoken in 31 countries spanning the continents of Europe, South America, Central America, North America, Africa as well as isolated areas where Spain had settlements, such as:

  • Latin American Spanish - Latin America is made up of North, Central and South American countries with sixteen Spanish-speaking nations. Just as there are differences in the Spanish spoken in Spain and Latin America, there are different dialects spoken in different areas of both. Moreover, the Latin American "standard" does vary from the Castilian, or official Spanish language.
  • Caribbean Spanish - Caribbean Spanish is the overall name applied to the Spanish dialects spoken in the Caribbean regions of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Panama, Venezuela and the coast of Columbia. It closely resembles the dialects spoken in the Canary Islands and western Andalusia. However, Cuban Spanish (cubano), Puerto Rican Spanish (español puertorriqueño) and others are as different as their Hispanic culture.
  • Mexican Spanish - Mexico is the largest Spanish speaking country in the world. Español mexicano is a variety of Spanish spoken in Mexico, parts of the United States and Canada that was brought to Mexico in 16th century. For sociological reasons, there are different accents and dialects (both educated and uneducated varieties) that exist across different parts of the country.
  • Equatoguinean Spanish - This dialect is the only official Spanish dialect spoken in Africa. It holds national status in Sub-Saharan Africa and is spoken by 90% of the region's population. It incorporated some vocabulary and pronunciation patterns from both native Guineans as well as German immigrants of Cameroon.
  • Indonesian Spanish - Although there is not an official Indonesian Spanish, Spain has long considered Indonesia as a close ally and a priority nation in their foreign affairs. With 17,508 islands and a total population of 242 million, there are over 300 different native languages spoken in Indonesia, including Spanish on remote islands initially settled by Spain's expansion.

The vast majority of Spanish words are universal, but many are not. There are numerous sounds and usages that vary between the dialects in Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America. Since not all innovations in language are logical, it is important that you soak up the accent or dialect of the version of Spanish you intend to use. One distinct difference in enunciation is the "lisp" common to Madrid. Legend has it that the unique sound started with King Ferdinand whose lisp was intentionally copied by Spanish nobility. Interestingly, many linguists say Argentine Spanish (español rioplatense) is the sexiest form of the language.

Considering how quickly the world is becoming a global village, it is easy to understand how the effectiveness of your multilingual message is best received when it sounds as though your Spanish scripted version was written specifically for your target audience. If you are responsible for multilingual meetings, marketing campaigns, or other business communications, contact ProLingo for help with your simultaneous interpretation and document translation needs.

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