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Translation: Specialty of Cultural Interpretation

“The Spanish language has to undergo massive changes in preparation for the future without borders,” warned Gabriel García Márquez in the Congress of Zacatecas 1997.

This declaration from the Colombian writer was shown to be prophetic as a little more than a decade after this Congress, Spanish was declared the second most spoken language in the world. It is currently the third most used language on the Internet and is spoken by some 450 million people as their first language. On top of this, we have to mention all those who have learned Spanish as a foreign language, either for use in business, for travel to Spanish-speaking areas, or because they live in polyglot countries and have neighbors, friends and colleagues who speak Spanish .

But … Spanish, Castilian, neutral Spanish? What should you learn and use?

Without going into too great of detail about the colonialist origins of the arrival of the language of Cervantes to the “New World”, I will just mention that when Spanish was “exported” from Spain to the Americas, the language was not preserved in a jar, so to speak. On the contrary, it was mixed with languages ​​of native peoples of this new world who had their own languages, and it was thus modified, simplified, new words were added and other terms that had no use in this new continent were ignored. That is, in Latin America, from Argentina to Mexico, from Venezuela to Uruguay, Spanish mutated, moving dynamically in space and time.

In fact, the same process is experienced by all languages, whether they are “exported” or not. Globalization is just the latest factor, but cultural diffusion is as old as trade and conquest.

And then, fellow Spanish translators, there is this important concept: we must know the cultural context of the specific Spanish dialect we are working with, because having the translation be correct in terms of language is only part of the battle. The other, and often more important, aspect is performing a conscious interpretation of the cultural codes that the language or dialect (not any other) reproduces and feeds. The nostalgia of tango, the irony of a milonga, the passion of a batucada … all are facets of the same language without borders.

To capture the true essence of each text, it is important to distinguish the different traits and become a good interpreter of culture.

(Versión en español: