Latin American Spanish

Knowing the differences between Latin American Spanish and Castilian is crucial to success in Latin America’s emerging markets. Trusted Translations offers native Latin American Spanish speaking translators to meet your translation needs.

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Latin America has been described as one of the world’s most promising “growth frontiers”—a region full of emerging markets that hold enormous potential for global investment and enterprise.

For instance, Latin America is home to Mercosur, a trade bloc (consisting of Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay) that makes up the fifth largest economy in the world, and which netted a GDP of about 4.6 trillion U.S. dollars in 2019. As the world’s fastest-growing region for startups, Latin America also has rapidly growing markets in financial technology, mobile gaming, e-commerce, healthcare, and much more.

Most importantly, of the more than 500 million people worldwide who speak Spanish as their native tongue, more than 300 million reside in Latin America. To reach these emerging markets, diligent translation into Latin American Spanish is required.

What is Latin American Spanish?

To begin with, “Latin American Spanish” is the broad, somewhat arbitrary name used to capture the many varieties of Spanish that appear throughout the region, each with their own idiomatic expressions and specific vocabulary. The term is frequently used for the purpose of contrasting Latin American Spanish with Castilian Spanish, i.e., the main form of Spanish used in Spain.  

What makes Latin American Spanish different? Here are three of the main areas that could most affect your Spanish translation projects in Latin America.

Mass Media Usage

Although Latin American Spanish and Castilian Spanish are mutually intelligible—just as U.S. English and British English speakers can understand one another—their usage across media sectors differs. For instance, the Latin American “standard” varies from the Castilian “standard” register that is generally used in television and, in particular, in the video dubbing industry. You will need to be aware of the most up-to-date norms for your specific industry and desired type of translation.

Grammar and Pronunciation

The rich history of Latin America over the centuries, post-Spanish colonization, has led to numerous linguistic differences between these regions. For example, Latin American Spanish does not use the second-person plural pronoun vosotros, which is common in Spain.

Conversely, Latin American speakers (depending on the country) use vos as a second-person singular pronoun, instead of tú. This phenomenon, referred to as voseo, is widespread in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, El Salvador, and more, where it is the norm not only in conversation but also in advertising, the press, and elsewhere.

Did You Know?
Spanish in Latin America is influenced by English media as well as indigenous languages.
Did You Know?
Many Latin American countries address people with vos instead of tú.
Did You Know?
Explorers from Andalusia influenced the pronunciation of Latin American Spanish.
Did You Know?
There are at least 12 major dialects of Spanish found in Latin America.
Did You Know?
Did You Know?

Vocabulary Differences

The influence of English is especially obvious in the vocabulary differences between Latin American Spanish and Castilian Spanish. In Latin America, loanwords are common—that is, words taken directly from English without translating or adapting the spelling to traditional linguistic norms.

For organizations working on technical translations, these vocabulary changes can have a significant impact, especially with recently adopted technical terms. For example, Latin American Spanish speakers will use the word email or e-mail, rather than the more literal translation, correo electrónico, used in Spain. Similarly, in Latin America, a speaker would say la computadora (computer); in Spain, this word would be translated as el ordenador. Each translation would seem bizarre to users from the other region.

Even when English isn’t the cause of a vocabulary difference, be careful: there are more than a few words that are mundane in one type of Spanish, but have highly offensive connotations in others! To avoid accidental errors or awful faux-pas, work with translators fluent in the slang, jargon, and cultural idioms of your target region.

Different Types of Latin American Spanish

Spanish is an official or national language in 21 countries around the world, with a remarkable variety showcased in the diversity of Latin America. The difference between the Spanish spoken in Mexico City and the Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires is significant—as great as the differences between either country’s Spanish and that spoken in Madrid.

Moreover, every Latin American country has internal variations of accent and dialect, each of them influenced by history, geography, and culture, including contact with indigenous languages as well as with English. Therefore, it is essential for you to understand your content’s target audience as well as to use native speakers of Latin American Spanish for your translation projects.

Choosing the Right Spanish Localization

So, how should you identify the right Spanish localization for your company? At Trusted Translations, our translators are deeply knowledgeable about the nuances of translating content to Latin American Spanish.

As part of our initial assessment process, our experts will help you determine the best choice of Spanish based on your particular communication needs, the objective of your company, your budget, and the audience you wish to address. This might begin with a “neutral” Spanish translation that will be understandable across all of Latin America, which we can then work with you to localize to more specific regions.

With a large network of in-country, bilingual Latin American Spanish translators, Trusted Translations is the chosen translation partner of the most prestigious organizations worldwide. Contact us today to learn more about our cost-effective solutions for Latin American Spanish translation.