Everyone has a dialect. Sometimes we think of dialect as an accent; however, an accent is merely how words are pronounced. A dialect has its own grammar, vocabulary, syntax, slang, and pronunciation rules that make it distinct from other dialects of the same language. The United State alone has more than 30 different English dialects. Sometimes the application of a dialect is intentional as we acclimate to a new community. However most of the time, we do not choose our dialects; we simply accept the language we are exposed to.
When working with foreign language learners, it is important to not only translate into the appropriate language, but also into the correct dialect. Here are some quick facts to keep in mind for these commonly translated languages:
In verbal form, there are two primary dialects for Chinese: Mandarin and Cantonese. In writing, Chinese is actually two separate languages: Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese. Mandarin is the spoken name for Simplified Chinese and Cantonese is the spoken name for Traditional Chinese. Simplified is used on mainland China, Traditional (also known as Hong Kong) Chinese is used in Taiwan.
There are many regional flavors available when translating into Spanish
- Universal Spanish: this takes the most general "flavor" rather than a flavor specific to a region or country.
- Latin American Spanish
- Spanish for Mexico
- Castilian Spanish (Spoken in Central and Northern Spain. This is also the language standard for radio and television speakers.)
Some languages use the same name but are very different based on the country your learners are based in:
- French for France vs. Canadian French
- Portuguese for Portugal vs. Portuguese for Brazil
- Arabic for Iraq vs. Arabic for Algeria vs. Arabic for Syria (Arabic is different in most countries)
Dialect is an important part of making sure your translated materials relate to your specific target audience. Your translation service provider should ask you about dialect requirements prior to the start of your translation project. If you are uncertain of which regional dialect to use or your target market includes several different regional dialect areas, a more universal translation may be the best option.