LIL: But What About all the “Different” Spanishes?

“I’m from Argentina (or Peru, or Cuba, or Puerto Rico, or Guatemala)! What if I don’t pass the state oral exam because I’m not using the ‘proper’ form of Spanish?”

As a company that helps students prepare for various interpreter certification exams, we get this question a lot. The simple answer? Spanish is Spanish.

Now hold on – before you fervently tell me that there’s no way Castilian and Caribbean Spanish are the same, hear me out.

Spanish is one language. Castilian and Caribbean are two dialects of Spanish. So, what’s the difference?


The main linguistic divider between a language and a dialect is that speakers of different languages cannot understand each other. Speakers of different dialects, even though they may use some words, phrases, and grammar that are unique to their region, can still understand other dialects of the same language. It may take a little practice and patience to communicate perfectly, but a Spaniard doesn’t need to go to school in Chile to understand Chileans, and vis versa.


That’s all well and good for travel, but what about the oral exam? Will speaking a certain dialect of Spanish hurt rather than help? Not so much.

The truth is that anything you interpret that is in a higher register, using more academic or specialized language, will not differ that much from one dialect to another of the same language. Also, using a colloquial term or phrase is perfectly fine. As long as it successfully conveys the meaning you intend, it will be counted correct.

Interpretation is all about facilitating communication. If you are able to fully convey the meaning you intend using a colloquial phrase, go ahead. If you are interpreting for someone from the same region, go ahead and use those regional phrases.

And if you’re not? Don’t worry about it. You both speak Spanish; you should be able to find a word that both of you understand.

Do you have any special experiences with dialects that you would like to share? Any questions on regional differences? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check back next week! Never want to miss a post? Sign up for our newsletter.

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