25 February 2016
Spanish Voice-Overs: Flavors of Spanish
Pure Spanish is a Myth!
They say that there is a gene that is responsible for whether you like cilantro or not. Some people find it soapy and inedible, and others adore it. People tend to have similar reactions to accents. Let's see...
Pure Spanish is a Myth!
There are differences between the Spanish of Spain and the Spanish spoken in Latin America.
But there are also differences between the Spanish spoken in different parts of Latin America. And even in different parts of Spain!
When it comes to Spanish voice-overs, there are many misconceptions and stereotypes, but the main thing that should be made clear from the very beginning is that Pure Spanish is a Myth!
Latin American voice-over talents can also speak what you might call 'proper' Spanish.. LATAM Spanish voice-overs are often very clear, easy to understand, and use all the correct verb forms and intonations. In fact, voice-overs for movies and books are usually made in Latin America instead of Spain, and are understood perfectly by Spaniards.
For instance, Colombia's voice-over industry is particularly proud of their clarity and proper use of Spanish.
But let's begin with perhaps the most notable difference between pronunciation in Spain and Latin America, which is the 'Castilian lisp'.
Castilian Spanish voice-over artists tend to pronounce 'ce' and 'ci' as 'th.' In Madrid, 'ciento' (I feel) becomes 'thiento' (as opposed to 'siento' in Latin America).
You might have heard the story of King Ferdinand and his lisp, which people imitated. It's a great story, but it's just that an urban legend. The real origin of the pronunciation is based in medieval Castilian and is not related to a speech impediment of any sort.
There were two different sounds that eventually evolved into "a lisp", the z, as in realizar, and the ç (the cedilla), as in plaça: the z makes a /dz/ sound and the cedilla makes a /ts/sound.
Spanish in Spain is also divided into Galician and Catalan; official languages that could be also labeled as "Spanish":
Catalan is a language in its own right and comes from Latin. Catalan voice-overs sound like a mixture of Spanish and French.
However, Galician sounds more like Portuguese.
When It comes to Spanish voice-overs, scripts are checked for good grammar, and if the translator is not local – for slang and colloquialisms. There are some completely normal expressions in Castilian that obtain a certain controversy when used in Latin America.
Grammatically, one of the clearest examples is the use of vos, primarily in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Originally a second-person singular pronoun, vos came to be used as a more polite form, to be used among one's familiar friends. It was quite common in Spain at the time the language reached the South of the Americas. These days you are much more likely to be asked, 'de donde sos?' at a Buenos Aires cafe than, 'de donde eres?', just like maybe 150 years ago.
The use of vos now appears to be growing in parts of Latin America where previously it had only been used by minority groups, such as Nicaragua, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Chile.
In Latin American countries, the pronoun vosotros is not used - they prefer the formal ustedes (corresponding verb form should be kept in mind), which is also used in the Canary Islands. Vosotros is used only in the Balearics and Spain.
But to be clear, the Latin American dialect will be understood perfectly well in Spain. In fact, people will probably consider it very polite!
Spanish varies in pronunciation, but the differences aren't that big. Let's just say, in many parts of Central America, 's' is not always pronounced, and some other syllables can also go missing.
Argentinian pronunciation was affected by the melody of the Italian language and has some other specific features, such as the double-l being pronounced like the s in pleasure instead of the y in yogurt.
Mexican Spanish voice-over talents have a marked tone in the last word of every phrase, and they also shorten some vowels. The phrase, "Que te pasa", for example, will sound more like "Que t pasaaa". You could say that Mexican Spanish is one of the most identifiable, and it is quite clear and understandable.
Choosing your voice
There are endless opinions regarding which pronunciation is the most beautiful, authentic, or classic, and if you are trying to decide which one to choose right now, I would remind you about the cilantro, and suggest you just follow your instinct and focus on intelligibility:
Remember that sounding native is just as important as speaking clearly, and hopefully one day you'll be able to do both!