Lifestyle and Culture

Neutral Spanish: Does Such A Language Exist?

February 18, 2013
Temple in spain

Inside of a beautiful temple in Spain

The Spanish language was born in Spain out of the prolific womb of Vulgar Latin.  When Spain decided to conquer Latin America, the Spaniards brought their language with them and introduced it to the indigenous peoples.

Christine Prantil on the Language Translation, Inc. website points out that Spanish, and any language, often changes when adopted in another land.  For example, American English is different from British English. Because the United States of America is geographically cut off from England, the version of English spoken in the U.S.A. has different intonations, language patterns and phrases.

Most Latin American Regions Have Their Own Version Of Spanish

Huge mountain ranges and impenetrable jungle landscapes of Latin America have isolated pockets of Spanish being spoken throughout the region.  There’s also the Atlantic Ocean that separates Latin America from Spain.  These geographic barriers produced several dialects of Spanish that sound distinctly different from the Spanish mother tongue.  As all languages evolve with time, almost every region of Latin America has a form of Spanish uniquely its own, with some distinctive nouns and phraseology.  For example, “swimming pool” is “pileta” in Argentina, “piscina” in Uruguay and “alberca” in Mexico.


Neutral Spanish Isn’t A Language

At Interpreters and Translators, Inc. (iTi) we’ve found that translations are often requested to be done in Latin American Spanish. Sometimes the client calls this form of Spanish “neutral,” “universal,” or “standard” Spanish.  There’s a problem with this.

Neutral Spanish doesn’t really exist.  However, in an attempt to produce a neutral Spanish, a professional translator who understands the different dialects between the differing regions will choose the words that are most recognizable to the greatest number of Spanish readers living in that area.  Obviously, when dealing with a specific country, it is always best to employ a native speaker to concentrate on your target readership. Use a native of Peru if your translation is for people of that country; a native of Mexico if the translation is for Mexicans only.

“Neutral” Spanish is an attempt made by translators to select terms that the majority of Spanish speakers will understand, by avoiding the use of local terminology and the invention of non-existent words. We’re not saying that you should avoid neutral Spanish. We’re saying use it but proceed with caution. For example:

  • Resolve any vocabulary conflict carefully, choosing the most appropriate terminology without coining new words. Avoid certain expressions, like idioms, that are only used in certain countries.

  • Translate precisely and accurately, without being offensive. Look for the words most likely to be understood by all Spanish speakers. If necessary or applicable, consider adding a footnote to explain the meaning of the word.

  • Generally, technical text is more neutral and many terms are shared by Spanish speakers worldwide. For example, “tomografía computada” (computerized tomography) will be understood by Spanish speaking professionals everywhere. Of course, there are exceptions.

Have you encountered any difficulty dealing with different Latin American dialects?  What are the words and phrases you find the most commonly understood? Please comment below. Thank you.



Globalization Partners


About Interpreters and Translators, Inc.

iTi’s dedicated and experienced team offers a wide range of multilingual solutions for domestic and global corporations in a variety of industries. Do you require translation services to enhance your global marketing and sales initiatives or interpreter services to communicate across languages? We specialize in custom language solutions and work with over 200 languages so regardless of the barrier you face, we will work together in synergy to bridge the gap to ensure success. Please feel free to contact us through a message or by calling 860-362-0812. Our offices are open 24/7/365 so we can respond immediately to your interpreting or translation needs anytime, anywhere.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Hernán Droguett August 11, 2022 at 8:47 pm

    Interesting article – even now reading it in 2022!

    I translated for healthcare for a couple of years and my team had to deal with “US Spanish” on a daily basis. Healthcare is tricky for a variety of reasons, many stemming from existing content (by whoever did the translation first) and what had been vetted by X government agency in X state. Thus we were stuck with “hogar de ancianos” for New York, “residencia para personas mayores” in California, “asilo de ancianos,” in Illinois, and “casa de reposo” for some programs at the federal level. Fun times!

    Thanks iTi!


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