Spanish is widely spoken around the world by over 470 million people as a native language and that number grows to about 560 million speakers if you add those who speak it regularly as a second language. It is an official language in 20 countries and one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Spanish translation is a growing business.
Spanish is also widely spoken in the United States, with about 45 million people who speak it as a first or second language. Oddly enough, Spanish translations for the US domestic market have become such a frequent request that it has given rise to a “new” and fast growing language: US-domestic Spanish.
While the Academia Real in Spain has the last word when it comes to what is officially Spanish, US hispanophones are charting their own linguistic territory. The main influences for US-domestic Spanish are, quite predictably, rooted in the countries from which their speakers primarily hail: Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. As one might expect, linguistic homogeneity is not a dominant characteristic. US-domestic Spanish translations are highly regionalized and influenced by local populations. In California and along the Mexican border into Texas and the southwest, Mexican Spanish is the predominant influence. In Florida, it is Cuban Spanish. In the northeast and New York City in particular, Puerto Rican and Dominican Spanish set the tone for Spanish translations.
There is some general common ground for US domestic Spanish translations, for example in the use of the miles, feet and inches and other units of measure associated with the Imperial system rather than the metric system. However, it is often important to know the target destination—where the message will be disseminated, as the designation US domestic Spanish by itself is not necessarily sufficient to precise the target audience. Even if a Cuban in Miami will be able to understand a radio ad spoken with a Mexican accent, the underlying message it sends is “you were not our primary target audience.”
Now, localizing a Spanish translation for four different cultures will obviously add expense and may not be possible or desirable. The answer is not a mashup of these four dialects. The sole remaining and best option is to go truly international: use terminology and speech for your Spanish translation that is region-neutral, so every listener will have to wonder: Where was that text translated? Where is that speaker from? This is what is known as neutral or non-regional Spanish.