Like popular European languages such as Italian and French, Spanish is derived from Latin. However, we must also bear in mind that other languages such as French and Arabic have had a strong influence on the Spanish language. When Spanish explorers "discovered" Latin America, the Spanish language used by the early settlers evolved into a distinctive dialect of Spanish with its own flavour and style. This new dialect of Spanish married the European and South American cultures to become what is generally called South American Spanish. Latin American Spanish is now spoken all over South America in places such as Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador with each country again having it's own specific nuances and dialects.
The differences between Latin American Spanish and European Spanish are in many respects similar to the differences between American and English meaning that Latin American Spanish speakers and European Spanish speakers have no difficulties understanding each other. The major differences between the two spoken dialects are as follows:
Spaniards tend to pronounce the z and the c before i or e like the "th" in "thick," while many Latin Americans pronounce it as the s. Also, some South Americans and in Argentina in particular, often pronounce the ll and y like the "s" in "measure." They also tend to drop s sounds, so está sounds like etá. In parts of South America, the j sounds like the "ch" in "loch" while in others it sounds like the English "h." Finally, the l and the r at the end of a word can sometimes sound alike. All of these pronunciation differences coupled with a slower pace and softer tone when speaking Latin American Spanish enable is to tell very easily where someone is from.
When it comes to South American Spanish translation and Spanish translation the differences are again very subtle and a Spaniard will generally have no problems understanding a South American text but there are some differences on grammar and vocabulary making it more logical to employ a native South American Spanish translator to translate texts specific to a particular South American market.
On grammar, two of the major differences that the Spanish translator will take into consideration are the leísmo of Spain and the use of the pronoun vos in some areas instead of tú. Secondly, vosotros is often used as the plural of tú (the singular familiar "you") in Spain, while in Latin American ustedes is used.
Vocabulary is where the major differences lie and can differ vastly even within South America emphasising again the importance of hiring a translator native to a particular locale or market. As they say there is no substitute for local knowledge.
Here are some of the misunderstandings that can arise from not hiring a native speaking translator to a specific market.
A Spanish translator may translate "to step on" as "pisar" while this maybe understood as "to have sex" in Latin American Spanish. A Spanish translator may translate "car" as "coche" while this maybe understood as "baby stroller" in Latin American Spanish. A "lápiz" is a pencil or crayon everywhere, but a "lapicero" is a pencil holder in some areas, a mechanical pencil in others, and a ball-point pen in others. There are also a number of blatant differences, such as a computer being an "ordenador" in Spain but a "computadora" in Latin America. Even within Latin Spanish we have the example where a Chinese restaurant is called a "chifa" in Peru and Chile but this word is very uncommon in other dialects of South American Spanish.
All in all, when sub-contracting your translation services for Latin Spanish do your research and ensure that your translator is not only a native South American Spanish translator but also native to the particular area/locale for which your text is being translated.