As a Latin American living in Spain I am often asked many questions about my accent and the words I use when I speak Spanish. A good friend of mine makes fun of me because even the tone of my voice changes when I jump between English and Spanish. The truth is that while there are differences between the varieties of Spanish, we Spanish speakers can all understand each other; the differences in vocabulary are no greater than those between British and American English.
The differences in pronunciation fascinate me. Down in the south the ‘S’ is not always pronounced, some syllables go missing, the classic double-l in Argentina usually pronounced like the y in yellow or the s in measure. Some say Colombian Spanish is the most beautiful one, other say Spanish spoken in Madrid is the most important, some say that Argentinian Spanish is the sexiest. The difference that strikes me the most is perhaps the “lisp” that is common in Madrid and some other parts of Spain. Legend has it that it all started with King Ferdinand’s lisp that was copied by the Spanish nobility. Blows my mind! A speech impediment changing the way a language is pronounced.
However, it is not all that clear-cut when it comes to translating, say for instance, sales training materials for 10 Latin American countries. Let us not mention Mexico here, which is a complete different world, positively speaking, of course. I have seen the same translation being used for several countries, say for instance, Peru, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay, I guess the criteria used was that they were all located in the south tip of the continent? Not sure about that, but if you ask me, I would say you should aim to go as specific as possible, your target audience will thank you for it.
In Latin America Spanish has many different variants or dialects depending on the zones where it is spoken, mainly because of the vastness of the territory and different history. I have seen Latin American being broken down into geographical areas: Amazonian, Bolivian, Caribbean, Central American, Andean, Chilean, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Mexican, Northern Mexican, Paraguayan, Peruvian, Puerto Rican and Argentinian Spanish.
Food for thought…