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What is Spanish US?

As a translator, I am constantly surprised by the number of projects that are translated into U.S. Spanish. I know there are many variants or “flavors” of the Spanish language (Spain, Latin America…) but I find it peculiar that a historically English-speaking country such as the U.S. could have its own Spanish variant. In an earlier article, Bryant had mentioned a couple of reasons for this phenomenon including the high level of Hispanic immigration in the U.S.


It is estimated that the Hispanic population in the United States is of 60 million, which is to say 17% of the country’s entire population. Thus, it’s not surprising that Spanish has become the most spoken language after English. Institutional websites such as the ones for The White House and the FBI have made Spanish translations available. Furthermore, there are currently over 35 different Hispanic newspapers issued in the U.S. and numerous television channels that at times have even more viewers than their English competitors.


I began to read a bit about this variant and compiled some interesting characteristics about it. What makes it different is that some of the phrases used are obtained by mixing both English and Spanish. So for example (in spoken language) “I’ll call you back” can be even be translated as “Te llamo para atrás” instead of the more appropriate “Te devuelvo el llamado”. This might seem strange or humorous to a Spanish speaker but, believe it or not, a large amount of people are using this variant on a daily basis!


Phonetically speaking, the “z” and “c” before the vowels “e” and “i” are pronounced /s/. This differs for example from the pronunciation of European speakers who instead pronounce “th” aka [θ]. Some U.S. Spanish speakers even drop the “s” in some words: “etá ahí” where in writing it’s read “está ahí”. Another feature of U.S. Spanish is that the pronounciation of the double consonant “ll” and the “y” does not differ. So for example “amarillo” and “yo” are both pronounced [ʝ] whereas in Rioplatense Spanish (spoken in most parts of Argentina and Uruguay) it’s pronounced /ʒ/.


For more information about the Spanish language spoken in the U.S., you can visit the Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española Academia [North American Academy of the Spanish Language]. If you wish to know more about Spanish U.S. or any other flavor, I invite you to click on this link.