The Myth of Spanish Dialects

In the translation business we keep hearing a concern from certain clients referring to “dialects of Spanish.”  With this term, some clients have expressed their fear that there are such significant differences between variations of Spanish from one setting (read “country” or “region”) to another that mutual understanding and therefore communication will suffer.

Our goal is to allay these preoccupations here.  Most if not all Romance languages are standardized by official “Academies” established during the European Renaissance.  Beginning with the Academia Di Orusca in Italy in 1582, and followed by the Académie Française in 1634 for French and the Real Academia Española in 1713 for Spanish, these sanctioned bodies are charged with determining which expressions are allowed to be included in their respective languages.  They all publish official dictionaries that are used by educators, reporters, linguists and all sorts of other wordsmiths as a foundation for their work.  These academies provide a reference source and establish a standard for a particular language. 

Of course there still exist regional variations that add color and spice to the languages;  however, thanks to these academies, there does exist a uniform Italian, French and Spanish which is understood by all people fluent in that language. The most salient linguistic regional differences are relegated to the categories of accent and pronunciation, which have absolutely no impact on the written page. Other manifestations of regional differences can be seen in music, clothing, folk arts, cuisine and expressions of an informal and interpersonal kind.  Unless your documents deal with the cultural aspects of very specific and limited areas, the language that will be used will be of the standard variety.  Regional discrepancies of language just don’t manifest in the documents you want to have translated.

Since the English language lacks an official sanctioning body, expressions become acceptable through usage rather than scholarly debate.  This may allow for frequent changes to a greater extent than with languages established by national academies.  Of course, with the advent of nearly universal and virtually instant modern communication, uniformity is becoming more and more the norm for all languages.

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