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Spanish or Spanish?

Translating into Spanish? Take a minute to think about what variation of Spanish you should use for your Spanish translation! I hope that this article helps you to make your choice!

The kind of target audience is an important factor that you must consider in every translation process, but it has a special relevance when translating into Spanish. I will tell you why:

Spanish is spoken in 20 different countries worldwide, making it the third most spoken language in the world, after Chinese and English. Nowadays people speak Spanish in Europe, Asia, North and South America. They speak the same language, but with certain variations regarding the vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, which has led to the emergence of a wide range of Spanish language varieties. The most relevant ones are Latin American Spanish (spoken in Latin American nations and the United States of America), and Peninsular, European or Castilian Spanish, but there are also significant differences in the way that Spanish is spoken among regions within single countries.

These are the main differences found in grammar and pronunciation:

– While in Spain there are two forms of the second-person plural pronoun: ustedes (formal) and vosotros (familiar/informal), in Latin America (and some particular southern-Spain cities such as Cádiz) this pronoun has been replaced with ustedes.
– The use of the form vos as the second-person singular pronoun is common in various countries around Latin America, including Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Paraguay.
Typical of Latin America is also the seseo. The ‘c’ and the ‘z’, like the ‘c’ in center, for example, are pronounced with a ‘th’ sound in Spain, making the Spanish word for center (centro) sound like ‘thentro’, while in Latin America, the soft ‘c’ and ‘z’ are pronounced like an ‘s’, making the word for center (centro) sounds like ‘sentro’.

Here are some examples showing the differences in terms of vocabulary:

English Peninsular Spanish (Spain) Latin American Spanish
Car Coche Carro
To get angry Enfadarse Enojarse
Potato Patata Papa
Computer Ordenador Computadora

There are also words used in both Spanish, but with a completely different meaning, which can cause confusion, for example the word coche in European Spanish means car; in Latin American Spanish coche sometimes means baby stroller.

In some cases it is advisable to use Latin American Spanish or European Spanish, and in other cases, the best choice is to use a Universal or Neutral Spanish (a standardized form of the language, widely acknowledged for use in literature, academic contexts and the media). That obviously depends on each case, and the purpose, communication needs and target audience of the translation. Choosing which variation will provide the correct nuance is essential if you want to produce a successful translation into Spanish.


Article Name
Spanish or Spanish?
Spanish is spoken in 20 different countries worldwide but with certain variations regarding the vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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