European vs Latin America Spanish Translation


As we have explained in some of our previous blog posts, Spanish is one of the most popular languages in the world, both from the perspective of the number of speakers, and the vast number of countries it is spoken in.

Although all these numbers place Spanish at the top of anyone’s list of languages for localization, this can also cause some rather peculiar issues. Today, we will talk about European vs Latin American Spanish translation differences and how these can influence your content.

#1. Differences in terminology

When you localize any content into Spanish, you will need to think about the audience of that content, if you want to truly immerse the users into what you are offering.

Here, the differences between European and Latin American Spanish translation start to show very early on. For example, if a person cannot hear you in Mexico, they will say Mande? asking you to repeat what you just said. In other Spanish-speaking countries, the speaker will ask Qué?. If you want to localize any sort of dialogue, it will not take long for this issue to pop up.

Going down the rabbit hole, we get to other often-used words, such as car, which is carro in Latin American Spanish, but coche in Spain. Another example is computer. In Argentina, computer would be translated as computadora, while in Spain it would be translated ordenador. Luckily, there is a Neutral Spanish version, which is equipo, also used by Microsoft in their software localization.

You need to be careful with any Neutral Spanish translation approach, though. You might think that there is a Neutral Spanish version for any term, so you will just translate your content for all users, without any linguistic differences. This might be true for a lot of content, but we will cover one specific example below which might make you rethink this approach, depending on what do you want to localize.

#2. Use of pronouns

The best example for this is the pronoun is you, when used for addressing a group of friends. In Spain, you would say vosotros, while in Latin America the use of this pronoun was abandoned two hundred years ago.

There, you would exclusively use ustedes, which is a more informal version of the pronoun.

#3. Specific Terms and Slang

Well, this is a combination which never gets old. There are many embarrassing mistakes you can make in terms of slang when localizing your content into any language.

Many have failed this test, creating localization blunders and making them (in)famous for these rather than their products or services.

At the beginning of this article we talked about the Neutral Spanish approach, which will certainly work for much of the content you want to translate. However, there are examples that show that this might not be the best approach.

If you came across the word shell, you’d probably decide to use the word concha. You need to bear in mind that this term has various meanings, with shell being one of them. It can also refer to a type of Mexican sweet bread, but in Argentina, it is used as slang for a woman’s genitalia. The same goes for many other Spanish words, which have taken on widely different meanings, due to the geographical and cultural differences.

How do you avoid cultural mistakes when you translate your content into Spanish?

A translator who is an expert for a given target market is the perfect solution! That’s why if you want to get on with Spanish translation, the easiest option is to reach out to us. We will check the content, and find the right translator for the target market that you want to enter. Together, we will avoid the linguistic pitfalls and help you create perfectly localized content for your users.

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Gosia loves copywriting and product translation. Additionally, she's a content marketing and lolcats junkie.

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