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Spanish from Spain, Latin America, or “Neutral”?

People generally never take the time to think about the various aspects of their native language, what vocabulary is preferred, how sentences are formed, the use of verb tenses, and even the way words can be stressed may differ from the way that others who speak the same language do in another country or area.

In the case of Spanish, and with respect to the field of translation, we often speak of three types of Spanish:

– Spanish for Spain

– Latin American Spanish

– Standard or Neutral Spanish

It is important that the person who is hiring translation services has this information present at the time of establishing the “flavor” of language. If the audience for whom the text is intended is in Spain, especially in unskilled general texts, differences with respect to Latin American Spanish can be clearly felt.

Some of the differences between Spanish from Spain and Latin America are evident. Here are several characteristics of Latin American Spanish and their counterpart in Spanish from Spain:

– Use of English neologisms without adaptation into Spanish (e.g. “Mouse” instead of the use in Spain of “ratón” when speaking of computers).

– Different use of tenses (e.g. The compound past (“hoy me he despertado temprano”) is more common in Spain while a Latin American would use the simple past (“hoy me levanté temprano”))

– In some Latin American countries, especially in Central America and Mexico, a period is used to separate the decimals from the rest of the number instead of a comma.

– Words of same spelling but different meanings (e.g. In Latin America people say “pararse” to mean “to stand up” whereas in Spain “pararse” means “to stop” and the verb for “to stand up” is “ponerse de pie”, in this sense creating obvious potential misunderstandings).

– Different uses of the second person plural, in Spain there is a difference between “vosotros” (when there is trust) and “ustedes” (as a show of respect); in Latin America, only “ustedes” is used without making the distinction.

– Use of vos, which is non-existent in Spain.

Also, while I touched on a few of the differences between these different “types” of Spanish, it clearly can be seen  that it is important that they are carefully considered when shopping for translation or interpretation services, even if the project is directed only and exclusively to a particular country, to adapt to that country, so that the target audience receives the information in a way that is fully understandable and natural in their language.

Finally, there is an option called “neutral” or “standard” Spanish, which is a variant of Spanish without connotations on one side or the other, i.e. instead of using “ordenador” (computer) as you would for Spain or “computadora” as you would for Latin America, you opt for the more generic “PC” or “equipo”, i.e. trying to use a Spanish that is, to the greatest extent possible, neutral.

Good sellers of this type of services are able to guide the customer and make them see the importance of defining these parameters so they can get a product that is totally localized and focused on their needs.

(Spanish version: