What is the difference between dialect and language?
A language is defined as a system of sounds and symbols used by the people of a country or community to communicate. A dialect is a variation within a language distinguished by grammar and vocabulary (and often accent). The terms ‘dialect’ and ‘accent’ are often confused – but accent refers to the phonetic pronunciation attributed to a dialect. Most languages have a ‘Standardised’ dialectal form, for example ‘Standard English’ (also known as RP or Received Pronunciation) is the language associated with BBC presenters or ‘Queen’s English’. However arguably this is unrepresentative - as only an estimated 2% of the population speak this dialect.
Dialects are judged based on intelligibility – for instance whether other speakers of the same language can understand them. Generally they include localised words and grammatical constructions.
Here in Leeds, where Jublo is based, our dialect is Yorkshire English – famous for flat vowels. It is considered to have influences from the old Scandinavian dialect ‘Old Norse’ from the Vikings invasion in the 9th Century. Common slang terms used here include ‘reet’ which means very, ‘leet’ which means mad, and anyone can be called ‘love’ as a term of affection. It’s a dialect that is often mocked in television and film, but it’s accent was voted the most trustworthy in a recent survey.
Which language has the most dialectal variations?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, as the most widely spoken native language, Chinese has the most dialectal variations. This is attributed to the huge geographical area of the country, as well as the existence of an estimated 600,000 villages - often small and self-sufficient - who speak their own dialects.
In the UK there are over 40 recognised dialects. These are mostly regional, and often have interesting stories of origin. The distinctive Scouse dialect for example, (named after the stew dish eaten by dockworkers and sailors) has influences from Irish and Welsh due to the influx of people immigrating to Liverpool in the 19th century. The number of UK dialects and accents is attributed to settlers and immigrants in history. The hardest dialects to understand are considered to be Glaswegian and Geordie.
Dialect in Translations
Here at Jublo we only work with native speaking linguists, to ensure that our translations are localised to specific audiences. It’s something that can make a huge difference for companies and really helps to engage with consumers. We often see that meanings of words differ in different locations. For example in Spain, coche is the word used for car, but in Guatemala this translates to a slang word for ‘pig’ and in Chile it is used for ‘pram’ or ‘baby stroller’. So it’s easy to see how brands can have translation disasters when they don’t take into account localised variations of languages.
Take a look at how some global brands have failed when translating for new markets here.