How A Whole Continent of Dialects Fits Into A Single Track in Latin American Spanish Dubbing

By Marcos Padró,
Managing Director Marmac Group, Argentina.

Latin America, such a vast territory, so many countries, so many different identities and cultures all around the continent.

How is it possible that with one audio, one project can be seen all over the place? How is that unification made? Does it actually work?

Every country in the world has its own way of speaking, of expressing, and that is a beautiful legacy that makes every culture unique, special and in constant evolution.

How we pronounce a specific sound, how strong our accent is or how the words find their own music can tell you right away if we are from here or there.

So, how does this work in dubbing purposes for Latin America? Does the client have to contact a studio in every single country to get their project dubbed in different accents? Does the client have infinite versions of their project in every Spanish speaking country across the continent?

From Mexico to Argentina, across forests, fields, rivers and mountains, we consider ourselves as “siblings”, we share a great deal of history, roots, politics and social difficulties. We are pretty much a big and diverse family.

The dubbing industry for Latin America is no exception. How do we solve this “communication” quasi-problem?

There is a “neutral Latin American Spanish” used in every studio for movies, TV series and international projects. It is a Spanish that does not exist in the “real world”; it is not spoken in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, or any other Latin country. It’s only used in our TV and cinema.

“But why?” You may ask.

Well it’s vocabulary is understandable in every country because there is no one particular slang being used. This makes it approachable to every Latin American person. There might be some words that are not used in some countries, but yes, they are known and accepted in every corner of the continent.

How does it actually work? It unifies the most frequently used sounds for certain letters so nobody feels as if they cannot relate or like a word is left misunderstood. It also helps to avoid any cause for distraction. For example the letters “Y” and “LL”, have at least four different sounds depending on the country, so the “neutral Latin American Spanish” takes the sound that is most frequently used, or repeated, and adopts it for itself. The same happens with other letters and words, as mentioned before.

It is curious, in fact, how the public feels a bit off if a character speaks in the viewers own accent. An Argentinian would feel strange hearing Batman as an Argentinian, for example. It is almost certain that they would be turning off the TV as soon as they heard it.

Can everybody speak this neutral Spanish? In fact, it takes actors and actresses a lot of practice to be fluent in this accent and, furthermore, to sound natural speaking it.

Luckily this industry has so many legends and gifted artists working, teaching and preparing actors and actresses… and fortunately, countless talented performers working in this already steady industry so the wheel won’t stop spinning.