English Spanish translation: Which Spanish for which market?

Need to translate your website, a marketing leaflet or a user manual into Spanish? But into which Spanish? Iberian, Colombian, Argentinian, Ecuadorian or Mexican?

With about 500 million speakers world-wide, Spanish ranks third in the most spoken languages, after English and Mandarin Chinese. This Romance language has many variations since no less than 21 countries have Spanish as their official language.

What about the grammar?

English is quite simple when it comes to addressing people. Whether you are talking to one or 20 people, whether you may know them very well or not, there is just one way to say it: “you”.

In Spanish, there are five different ways to address people according to how many people you are talking to, how well you know them, and what country they come from:

  • ” is used to talk to someone in an informal way in most Spanish-speaking countries except in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, where they prefer “vos”. “Vos” even has its own conjugation! If you really want to create a meaningful dialogue with your clients, you should definitely keep this regionalism in your advertising campaigns and other marketing documents.
  • usted” is used to speak to someone in a formal context, both in Spain and Latin-America. In Spain, the plural equivalent of “” is “vosotros” whereas in Latin America it is always “ustedes”.

Keep these differences in mind as it will determine your communication strategy whether you are dealing with Spanish or Latin-American clients.

What about the vocabulary?

  • A mobile phone company sells “móbiles” in Spain and “celulares” in Latin America.
  • A car manufacturer makes “coches” in Spain, “autos” in Argentina and “carros” in Colombia and Mexico.
  • A computer group commercializes “ordenadores” to Spaniards and “computadoras” to Latin-Americans.

These are a few examples of vocabulary variations we can find from a Spanish-speaking country to another. And there are many more! In spite of it all, Spanish speakers can easily understand each other and communicate without major difficulties, whether they are from Spain, Chile or Venezuela. Having said that, you might think that a translation into standard Spanish will work. Nevertheless, if you want to build a closer and trustful relationship with your client, there is nothing like using their regional variation.

How to choose then?

If you are about to entrust your document to your Language Services Provider for an English Spanish translation, ask yourself two things: What is my budget? Who is my target. These answers will help you choose the most accurate Spanish for your project.  

What is my budget?

Having quite a tight budget and little time for this project? If so, opt for a standard Spanish and reach both Spain and Latin America with a single message. Even if universal Spanish doesn’t really exist as a living language in everyday communications, it is commonly used for practical and commercial purposes. It will help you reach your target at a lower cost. It is all about finding the most neutral translation, that is more likely to be understood by the whole Spanish-speaking community.

Who is your target?

If you have a larger budget, you should definitely offer your clients the possibility to read your content in their regional Spanish. First of all, ask yourself who is your main target and let your translation agency know. The translator in charge of your project will immerse himself into your clients’ culture to better understand their communication habits, behaviours, and expectations. Providing your clients with a localized translation gives you more credibility on their market. You catch their attention, gain their trust, which means selling more and refining your brand image.

Cultures Connection helps you choose the most accurate Spanish for your project and adapt your message if necessary. You can rely on us with your eyes closed! Your document will be assigned to a native professional translator from the country we will agree on.