Between the 17th and 19th century, Spain established colonies all over the world. Spain had become one of the leading world powers, amassing astronomical amounts of silver and gold and one of the largest armadas the world has ever seen. However, in the late 19th and early 20th century, Spain lost their colonies and with it their global power. While the Spanish government was no longer an influencer in South America, much of the Spanish language and culture remained.
This divided the Spanish language between Peninsular (European) Spanish and the Spanish of the Americas. Each of these divisions has its own regionalisms and dialects, with the most notable dialect of Peninsular Spanish being Castilian. On the other hand, Latin American Spanish is much more complex in terms of regionalisms with every country having its own dialect and many countries having multiple. Peninsular Spanish has Arabic influences, some of which carried over to Latin American Spanish, while Latin American Spanish has influences in Native American languages such as Quechua and Mayan.
These influences and the 4,500-mile long ocean that separates Spain from Latin America has created two dialects that share the same basics, yet adopt different colloquialisms and pronunciations. The difference in terms of pronunciation is entirely technical with each regionalism adopting unique yet similar sounds. As far as for translators understanding the difference in pronunciations, the impact is seldom evident. The vast majority of translators can comprehend the different pronunciations with ease and experience no difficulty with different dialects. The worst-case scenario tends to be the interpreter asking the speaker to slow down until the interpreter gets used to the different pronunciation. In short, the difference in pronunciation is hardly a problem and typically is not a hindrance to the interpreter performing their job.
That being said, one problem that can arise with two Spanish speakers from different areas stems from the abundance of colloquialisms. Colloquialisms are commonly used phrases that have a literal translation that does not match the applied meaning. In English, the phrase “eat my dust”, does not have the actual meaning of feeding someone dust, but rather is used to show the idea of getting ahead. Phrases like these pose nightmare situations for inexperienced translators or those who are unfamiliar with certain dialects.
In order to counteract this, it is best to refrain from using colloquial terms in conversation with interpreters. This will allow both parties to better understand each other and reduce the risk of miscommunication. All in all, interpreters and Spanish speakers in the United States, encounter many different dialects and colloquial phrases in their everyday lives making them skilled at accurately translating regardless of the regionalism.