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Hiring Language Translators Appropriate for Your Target Dialect

Aug 27, 2008
The term "dialect" is generally defined as a language variety spoken in a specific geographic region. The Spanish language has many variations, or dialects, which can be quite different from one another. This is an important consideration when dealing with live or document translation situations involving the Spanish language.

Possibly the widest gap in Spanish dialects exist between European Spanish and Latin American Spanish. The Spanish language originated in the Castile region of Spain. During the reign of King Alfonso X in the 1200's, Spanish became the official language of the region and it became mandatory for all government documents to be written in Spanish. From the 1400's to the 1800's, the Spanish language was passed through the Canary Islands to places like Cuba and Santa Domingo via sailors.

Through the years, the Spanish spoken in the Latin American countries diverged from that spoken by the European countries. One of the main areas of difference is in the use of pronouns. For example, in Spain the word "tu" is used for "you", whereas in some Latin American countries, at least in some instances, the word for "you" is "vos". This can lead to some interesting differences in second person expressions.

A translator interpreting a document or conversation should be careful to use language elements appropriate to the specific region. For example, "vos," which is used often in Latin America, may be considered an uneducated way of speaking in some other countries - certainly not the kind of impression you want to make for your business.

The Spanish language also diverged between countries within Latin America. The mingling of languages, both local and that spoken by explorers, along with spontaneous or unexplained changes, drove the evolution of numerous Latin American dialects. Much study is required to develop an understanding of the proper way to speak for specific Spanish language countries.

All formal Spanish dialects use the same written standard for grammar. However, informally, and in speech, differences can be pronounced. In addition to grammatical differences such as pronouns, there are also regional word differences that relate to food products, clothing, and other everyday items. Latin American Spanish also tends to display influence from Native American languages.

The term "dialect" does not apply to other regional languages spoken in Spain such as Catalan and Basque. Those are distinctive languages requiring an entirely different language skill set.

When hiring a translator, be very specific about the country and language with which you will be dealing. It is too vague to just look for a "Spanish" translator. And at all costs, avoid any kind of automated or mechanical translator. You absolutely will not receive as high quality a translation as you will if you employ a live human being who is comfortable speaking and writing in the language and dialect of your prospective customer.

In business, you need to speak the language of your customers - literally. When dealing with prospects who speak Spanish or any other language other than your own, hire a professional language translator. Do not risk insulting your potential clients by mangling their language.
About the Author
Alboum & Associates is a provider of professional language translation services based in Arlington, Virginia. Visit http://alboum.com to learn more.
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