Spanish is spoken in 31 countries around the world, with 528 million speakers. The Spanish language used in each locale has a different version. Likewise the cultures vary and the spoken Spanish shows marked dissimilarities.
If a business wants to market to the Spanish-speaking consumers, which version of Spanish should the company choose? It is important for companies to ensure that their materials, information and products can be understood by their specific audience. It is their responsibility to prevent legal issues from arising due to using concepts or terms that are not neutral.
When you say you want English to Spanish translation that is fine. But you need to go further than that. Do you mean Latin American Spanish or Euro Spanish? Latin American Spanish, technically speaking is not an official Spanish language. It is a mix of several Spanish variants, including Colombian, Argentinian and Mexican.
Even the term for the language – Spanish – differs. It is called Castilian or Castellano if you want to refer to Continental (European) and Latin American Spanish. You use the term Español when you are speaking to people who are not native speakers of Spanish.
Castilian Spanish is the official language that is spoken all over Spain. However, other official languages in Spain include variants such as Catalan Spanish and Galician Spanish that are spoken in specific regions.
Your decision on which Spanish version to use should depend on your research but you should also look at this from the perspective of the language itself. Work closely with the translation services provider you choose so there would be no issues that could mean re-doing the translation, which would be costly.
Thirty-one countries around the world speak Spanish, which is the second most spoken language in the world after Chinese. It has overtaken English, which has 372 million speakers in 106 countries.
The regional varieties of Spanish are vastly different particularly in vocabulary and pronunciation. It is less different in grammar. The dialects follow almost the same standard for written texts while the spoken varieties different in various degrees. Differences are present between the Spanish spoken in Hispanic America and Spain, in the same manner that Spanish of the Americas differ from European or Peninsular Spanish.
- Hispanic American Spanish
Hispanic American Spanish includes several regions. Mexican Spanish has 10 variants. The Central American Spanish form is spoken in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica. The Caribbean Spanish variant is dominant in Caribbean Mexico, Caribbean Colombia, Panama, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Cuba. The other parts of Colombia, the Andean side of Venezuela, West Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru use the Andean-Pacific variant.
Paraguay, East Bolivia, Uruguay and Argentina use the Rioplatense variant of Spanish. Cuyo and Chile use the Chilean version.
- Old World variants
Old World Spanish variants are those spoken in these regions: Northern Peninsular variant is spoken in Cuenca, Guadalajara, Rioja, Aragón, Navarre, Cantabria, Castilla y León and Asturias. Those Spanish speakers in La Mancha, Toledo and Madrid speak the Central-Southern Peninsular version while speakers in Canary Islands use the Canarian version. The Philippines has its own version of Spanish as well. In Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea, the non-native Spanish they use is influenced by several varieties of Spanish variants used in Spain. Spanish speakers in Gibraltar are almost the same as the Spanish spoken by their nearest neighbors except that they switch to English at times.
Differences in grammar
For learners of Spanish, these are some of the things you should keep in mind. Regardless of the Spanish spoken in a country, remember that “you” could be used in five ways. The use of the pronoun depends on which country the Spanish speaker is from, the depth of relationship between the two speakers and the number of persons being addressed.
- In Latin America and in Spain, usted is used when formally addressing a person
- In most countries, tú is used when addressing someone informally. In Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina, the pronoun they use is vos (with its specific conjugation). This difference is vital for marketing.
- In Latin America, you should use the plural form ustedes in formal or informal contexts. In Spain, however, vosotros is used when informally addressing several people.
Differences in vocabulary
When a company is trying to market mobile phones for example, it is critical to choose which market they are targeting. If they want to market to consumers in Latin America, the Spanish word to use for a cellphone is celulares while for consumers in Spain, the term to use is móbiles.
Computers in Latin American Spanish translate to computadoras, which is very different from the term used in Spain – ordenadores.
The difference goes further depending on the products you are marketing. In Mexico and Colombia, for example, you should use carros for automobiles or cars. When you’re marketing to Argentina, the Spanish word to use is autos. If your target consumers are located in Spain, see to it that the term you are using is coches.
Some particular exceptions you can add to the above are the following:
|English||Peninsular Spanish||Latin American Spanish|
|pen||bolígrafo||lapicero / pluma|
Various differences exist between written Spanish in countries that use the language, not only in Latin America and Spain but also in countries in South and Central America. More differences are noted between the Spanish used in Argentina and the one that is used in Mexico.
Although the differences do not hamper the communication and understanding among different Spanish speakers significantly, it is important for a company to choose which form of Spanish to use when they need to have their documents translated or localize their brand materials and websites.
Using a regional or local variant could help you have a closer relationship with your target consumers. Show them that you have greater understanding of their needs and preferences, which could lead to trust, and help your clients feel at ease with your products and services.
Things to consider
One of the most important things to consider before you order an English to Spanish translation is your budget. If you have the budget, you can specify the particular Spanish to use in the translation, because you are targeting a particular Spanish-speaking market.
However, if you do not have the time and the budget, the best option is to choose neutral Spanish.
What is neutral Spanish and is this a language?
Due to the number of variants of the Spanish language and widespread location of Spanish speakers, it is difficult for clients to decide which form of Spanish to use. Neutral Spanish is sometimes called ”standard” or ”global” Spanish. It is not another Spanish language variant but more of an attempt of translators and linguists to choose terms that will be commonly understood by the majority of Spanish speakers. Neutral Spanish avoids using local terminology. Sometimes, non-existent words will be invented.
Using neutral Spanish does not make the translation any easier. The translator must still choose the right terms that would be universally understood, and which will not be seen as offensive by the rest of the speakers of Spanish in other areas.
One thing that will help is to be specific about where the target audience is located – in South America, Central America, Spain or the United States, for example. Providing the location will help the translator determine the number of regions and the variations of Spanish language used in these locales.
Linguistic differences and grammatical constructions are present in many languages that are widely spoken, such as Spanish. Therefore it is important to choose the most applicable term. For example, a swimming pool is alberca in Mexico, piscina in Uruguay but pileta in Argentina.
The translator must choose the most polite or neutral variant, since there are words that mean differently between variants. In Continental Spanish, ”to grab” translates to coger. But the term, when used in Uruguay and Argentina, has an explicit sexual meaning.
In the absence of a particular target market, the translation provider must select the right terminology and follow the linguistic syntax. It is the responsibility of the translator to choose the most suitable terms, avoiding some idioms, slang and expressions and avoiding the formation of new words. A footnote could be added to further explain the words’ meanings.
For example, instead of using ordenador or computadora for ”computer,” it is safer to use the term equipo informático that all Spanish speakers understand. At times, searching the right word via Google could help in finding the most common term. For the English word “car,” a Google search showed that automóvil or its shorter version auto received higher hits than carro (which could also mean a heavy two-wheeled cart/wagon pulled by an animal) and coche.
Neutral Spanish is not standard, but it is the better alternative if the client does not have the budget to have their materials translated or localized into several variants of Spanish. Using neutral Spanish allows written materials to be understood by target consumers in Latin America and Spain.
It is important for a client to properly identify their target market. Once you have determined your specific target audience, the translators at Day Translations, Inc. have intimate knowledge of the culture of your target markets because they fully understand their expectations, behavior and habits. Using the most appropriate variant of Spanish effectively contributes to gaining your targets’ attention and trust, and patronage and prestige for your brand.
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