The Spanish language consists of several varieties and for clients in need of Spanish translation, they have to decide which Spanish to use to reach their potential Spanish-speaking market.
Spanish is the world’s second most spoken language after Chinese. It is spoken in 31 countries. The latest Ethnologue data states that there are 442 million native speakers of Spanish. Around the world, 512.9 million people speak the language.
There may be nearly 513 million people speaking Spanish but they don’t speak the same Spanish at all. There are dialectical differences among the different varieties of Spanish depending on the region where the speaker is from. However, these Spanish dialects are mutually intelligible, but from the point of view of translation, it is critical to consider the type of Spanish to use for specific targets.
The Spanish vocabulary is heavily influenced by Arabic. In fact, more than 8% of its vocabulary came from Arabic. Other languages that influenced Spanish include various Ibero-Romance languages, Visigothic, Celtiberian, Iberian and Basque languages. Spanish also assimilated vocabularies of Sardinian, Catalan, Occitan, Italian and French languages. There are also terms that originated from a variety of indigenous American languages including Quechua and Nahuatl.
Origin and development of Spanish
The Spanish language developed from Vulgar Latin that was brought by the Romans to the Iberian Peninsula around 210 BC at the time of the Second Punic War. The first recorded documents showing traces of the forerunner of Modern Spanish came from the 9th century. In the Middle Ages, the Spanish lexicon originated from Occitan, Galician, Portuguese, Catalan, Leonese, Navarro-Aragonese and Mozarabic. Later, it was influenced by German Gothic, Italian and French.
The written standard of Spanish started developing in the 13th century in Toledo City. It differed strongly from Leonese, its closest cousin. This standard reached the south of Spain as the Reconquista advanced. The initial development of the Spanish language took three centuries, from the 13th to the 16th century. It further developed in Madrid late in the 16th century.
Variants of Spanish
The differences among the variants of Spanish may be subtle although it is still critical that these differences are taken into consideration because speakers of Spanish, just like speakers of other languages, are proud of their mother tongue and will take exception when the differences particularly in the written form are not observed. This will ensure that the Spanish translation is highly accurate as well. As mentioned, the differences emanate from the place where the language is spoken.
- Spanish (in Spain)
About 42.7 million people in Spain speak Spanish as their first language. Overall, some 46.3 million speak the language in Spain alone. The Spanish spoken in Peninsular Spain is called Castilian. This is the official Spanish language, which is used in central and northern Spain.
In southern Spain, their variant of Spanish is called Andalusian, which is the second most popular version in the country. The distinction between northern and southern Spanish is in the use of ceceo and seseo, the omission of D and R, and the aspiration of S at the end of the word. Andalusian Spanish speakers also drop the final consonants from their words.
Murcian Spanish is used in the southeastern part of Spain, specifically in the Autonomous Region of the Community of Murcia.
Several distinguishable language groups are present in Spain. In western Spain’s autonomous community of Extremadura, they speak Extremaduran Spanish. In Galicia, which is located in northwestern Spain, the prevailing language is the Portuguese-inspired Galician Spanish. Basque, a language isolate is spoken in the Pyrenees by the people living in an independent Spanish community. In many parts of northern Spain and in Andorra, the official language is Catalan.
- Canarian Spanish
In the Spanish Canary Islands, the Spanish dialect used is Canarian, which is almost similar to Caribbean Spanish. The S is aspirated and the consonants are excluded. The letter H in Canarian Spanish is pronounced while in standard Spanish, the letter is silent. Its vocabulary is heavily influenced by Portuguese.
Llanito is quite unique as it developed from the combination of British English and Andalusian Spanish. It is spoken in Gibraltar, which is an overseas territory of Britain.
- Latin American Spanish
This variant of Spanish, which has over 418 million speakers are commonly spoken in South America, Central America, Peru. Bolivia, Mexico and the United States. The largest countries speak Latin American Spanish include the U.S., Argentina, Colombia and Mexico.
Rioplatense Spanish is spoken in the River Basin that separates Uruguay and Argentina. It is also spoken in these two countries. The Italian intonation of this form of Spanish makes it different from the other variants.
In the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba, Caribbean Spanish is dominant. This variant is also spoken in Central America and along the Mexican east coast. This variant of Spanish omits the middle and final consonants. Its aspirated R is more like how X is pronounced in Portuguese.
About 50 million people residing in the United States speak Spanish. The Spanish spoken in Los Angeles and the one spoken in New Mexico even have subtle differences. The younger generation uses an English-Spanish hybrid language called ”Spanglish.”
- African Spanish
Several areas in Africa speak Spanish as well. The Equatoguinean Spanish is the official type of Spanish used in Africa. Its pronunciation patterns and lexicon incorporate immigrant German spoken by those who reside in Cameroon and the native Guinean languages.
Many of the differences in the Spanish language are evident in the Latin American Spanish and the European Spanish. The most prominent of this is in the use of the pronoun ”you.”
Different verb endings and pronounce are used in Spanish to indicate singular and plural as well as informal and formal forms. In both types of Spanish, addressing a person informally (such as family members and friends and between adult and child), they use ”tú” and for a single person, formal, they use ”usted.”
For addressing several persons in Castilian Spanish, they use ”vosotros” if the speaker is close to the persons being addressed. In formal occasions, the speaker should address the unfamiliar group by using ”ustedes.” This is also to show respect to these persons.
Latin American Spanish speakers on the other hand use only ”ustedes” for formal and informal forms of address.
In Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina, they use ”vos” rather than ”tú.”
In most cases the differences in vocabulary between Latin American Spanish and European Spanish are slight and same words could mean the same thing. If stuck, speakers of different Spanish variants look at the context for clues to understand the meaning. But this does not work all the time.
For example, ”carro” or ”auto” means car in Latin American Spanish, while in Spain, they call the vehicle ”coche.” In Latin America, they call a cellphone as ”teléfono celular” while in Spain, they call it a “teléfono móvil.” While it means the same thing, it makes a difference when you use the term for business, which is why word choices is critical in Spanish translation. You should say ”ordenadores” if you are marketing computers in Spain. If you are targeting Latin American countries, use ”computadoras” instead.
In a more serious level, take the verb ”coger” as an example. It Spain, it means ”to catch” or ”to take.” However, in several parts of Latin America, ”coger” is a vulgar term used to describe the sexual act.
Budget and the target market are two things to consider when ordering translation work. If you do not have a big budget for Spanish translation, you can opt to use ”neutral Spanish.” This is not a new type of Spanish but rather an artificial construct for commercial use. Neutral Spanish will allow you to reach target audiences in Spain and Latin America. It is not an official academic form of Spanish but rather the type of Spanish that modern speakers and the media use. It still follows a style guide but avoids the use of country-specific terms and idioms.
However, do note that using neutral Spanish does not create that big an impact as using the standard or regional versions of Spanish. Therefore, the client must carefully decide which Spanish to use.
Of course, it you have the budget, you can request the translation company to use standard or official Spanish or Castilian or country-specific Spanish, depending on your target audience.
When ordering Spanish translation, the client must tell the translation company who the target market is and where they are located. Each region has its own linguistic differences, grammatical constructions and words. In Argentina, for example, a swimming pool is called ”pileta” while it is called ”alberca” and ”piscina” in Mexico and Uruguay, respectively.
Knowing the target audience lets the translation company select the right terminology, follow linguistic syntax or rules and choose words correctly. If you are exploring to expand your business to Latin America, we recommend you to our free guide on Doing Business in Latin America: How to Succeed in this Promising Region.
In need of Spanish translation? The translation team of Day Translations, Inc. will ensure that you get the right form of Spanish to reach your specific Spanish-speaking targets. Our translators are native speakers of Spanish and more than 100 other languages. You cannot go wrong when you choose Day Translations to work on your translation project. We deliver professionally done Spanish translations that are 100% accurate. Check out our language services and look at our list of clients to ensure that you are in good hands. We are open 24/7, each day of the year to provide your high quality translation at a moment’s notice. Contact us at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us. We have professional translators all over the world to attend to your translation needs quickly.
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