Adapting Document Translation Services for Different Spanish-Speaking Countries

Document translation doesn’t have a “one size fits all” approach. What should you look for in acquiring translations that account for the diversity and size of the Spanish-speaking world? In this post, we review some of the critical components of adapting document translation services for different Spanish-speaking countries.

Different Certification Requirements

When seeking out Spanish document translation, one key thing to know is that different countries have different legal standards for translation. In Spain, for example, only a “sworn translator” can prepare and certify an official translated document; these translators are carefully examined by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In Mexico, the law requires that every document submitted to legal authorities must be in Spanish, so obtaining professional translation services is a must-have.

Language Differences and Beyond

Regardless of the countries involved, the process of document translation always involves careful adaptation to the local language. For Spanish, the number of Spanish variants spoken around the world requires especially careful translation. Beyond the generally well-known differences in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation between Castilian Spanish (spoken in Spain) and Latin American Spanish, here are some issues to consider that relate specifically to document translation services:

International trade requirements

Document translation is central to conducting international trade, so professional translators need to be aware of each country’s complex legal requirements governing imports, exports, taxes, and more. Trade requirements by country can also change frequently; in Argentina, for example, new regulations related to transfer pricing documents were issued as recently as 2019.

Naming and title customs

Naming customs differ throughout the Spanish-speaking world. In Chile, for instance, women do not adopt their spouse’s surname after marriage. Many Spanish-speaking countries also have slightly different variations on the typical naming custom found in Spain, where a child receives two last names (paternal and maternal). Since names are crucial for documents like birth certificates, marriage certificates, and wills, translators must be able to spot any mistakes—such as an accidental mix-up between forename and surname, or the wrong order of multiple surnames—and adapt them to the correct local custom right away.

Different functions and roles

Each party involved should have clear understanding of each role and function, whether that’s vocabulary in the documents themselves or a client’s understanding of what each translation service provides. One common barrier is the difference between notarios in many Spanish-speaking countries and a notary in the U.S. Despite the near-identical names, notarios publicos can perform extensive legal functions, whereas notaries are much more limited. This can lead to confusion when translating documents between, say, an organization in a Spanish-speaking country and a Spanish-speaking community based in the U.S.

What other factors affect document translation services?

Adapting document translation also entails further localization to appeal to specific audiences. Some factors that translation services typically consider when localizing might be the demands of local markets—for example, the top industries requiring documentation in Colombia may be different from those in Cuba; different word counts between source and target languages; and cultural differences. Therefore, document translation services that have experience working across many countries and cultures can help navigate these adaptations as successfully as possible.

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