Insights into Spanish Translations for Latin America

May 06, 2013

Latin American Spanish is a term used to describe the Spanish language spoken by the populations of Mexico, most of Central and South America, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Each region introduces its own dialect and pronunciation differences, but the written language is sufficiently similar to group into the same category.

At the time of localization, even though any Spanish-speaking person in Mexico will clearly understand a written text from someone in Argentina, it is very important that the subtle differences among the Spanish variations are taken into account so the target audience has the feeling of reading a text truly addressed to them.

Spanish Translations for Latin AmericaIn other words, to effectively attract Spanish-speaking customers and clients, you must adapt not only the language and appearance of a product, but also the functionality of a product or website for Spanish-speaking markets.

The Spanish in Latin America varies from country to country and even within the countries themselves. These are some of the major characteristics of Latin American Spanish:

Voseo vs tuteo:

"Voseo" is the use of the pronoun "vos" and " tuteo" is the use of the pronoun "tú". Both pronouns mean "you". The pronoun "vos" is used instead of "tú" in at least some part of every Latin American country, with the exceptions of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Examples:

English

Voseo

Tuteo

Can you ask him for that?

¿Se lo podés pedir vos?

¿Puedes pedírselo tú?

You requested me to go.

Vos me pediste que vaya.

Tú me pediste que vaya.

She bought it for you.

Ella lo compró para vos.

Ella lo compró para ti.

Whenever you want.

Cuando vos quieras.

Cuando tú quieras.


Use of "ustedes":

In Spain, both forms of the plural pronoun "you", "vosotros" (you all, informal) and "ustedes" (you all, formal) are used, while in Latin America "ustedes" is always used and with all the corresponding verb conjugations.

Examples:

You (plural form)

Ustedes

Can you ask him for that?

¿Se lo pueden pedir ustedes?

You requested me to go.

Ustedes me pidieron que vaya.

She bought it for you.

Ella lo compró para ustedes.

Whenever you want.

Cuando ustedes quieran.


Weakened or lost consonants:

In the Caribbean, much of Central America, the entire Pacific coast of South America, the Rio de la Plata nations and some areas of Mexico, many consonants at the end of a syllable or word are either weakened or lost altogether. This is especially the case with the final "s" sound. For example: "los niños" (the children) ends up sounding more like "loh niñoh", "adios" (goodbye) sounds like "adioh" and the clause "esto es lo mismo" (this is the same) sounds more like "ehto eh lo mihmo".

In words with a "d" between two vowels, the "d" is often dropped so that "cansado" (tired) sounds like "cansao" and "pecado" (sin) sounds like "pecao".

The "r" is also commonly dropped from the end of verb infinitives, so that "comer" (to eat) sounds like "comé".

Seseo:

In Latin American Spanish, the "s", "c" and "z" are all pronounced with an "s" sound.

Examples:

English

Spanish

Spanish Pronunciation

Centers

Centros

Sentros

Shoes

Zapatos

Sapatos

Sun

Sol

Sol

Five

Cinco

Sinco

Carrot

Zanahoria

Sanahoria


Yeísmo:

The double "L" ("ll") is pronounced like a "y" in the Latin American speaking countries:

Examples:

English

Spanish

Spanish Pronunciation

Rain

Lluvia

Yuvia

Key

Llave

Yave

Call

Llamada

Yamada

Close

Allegado

Ayegado

There

Allá

Ayá


Confusion between "L" sound and "R" sound:

In the Caribbean region and in parts of Chile, there is certain confusion between the "l" and "r" sounds. The "l", when placed before a consonant in a word, is often pronounced as an "r". For example, the word "alma" (soul) will often be pronounced "arma".

Influences - indigenous languages, Europe, etc:

Spanish ArgentinaLatin America is certainly a melting pot of influences from indigenous languages like Nahuatl, Mapudungun, Guarani and Quechua to European languages like Galician Spanish, Italian and French. For this reason, while the base language is Castillian Spanish, there are traces of indigenous, European and even African languages in regional Latin American dialects.

A perfect example is Argentina, which has a great number of words that are spoken nowhere else, known as "lunfardo". These can include sometimes untranslatable words such as "vivo" - a word that is used to denote a person who can get away with things; a hustler. A related term is "avivarse": to get wise to things; gain experience; learn not to get taken advantage of. Another popular expression, with origins in lunfardo, is "che" which is roughly equivalent to the English "hey." Certain Argentines use the word "che" all the time, especially when they're angry. As in "Che, what are you doing? Che, where are you going? Che, get back here!"

There are significant differences in vocabulary among regional varieties of Spanish, particularly in the domains of food products, everyday objects, and clothes.

Examples:

English

In many Spanish-speaking countries

In Argentina

Peach

Melocotón

Durazno

Strawberry

Fresa

Frutilla

A pair of socks

Un par de calcetines

Un par de medias

Cake

Pastel o Tarta

Torta

Bus

Autobús

Colectivo u ómnibus

Kite

Cometa

Barrilete

Bathtub

Tina

Bañera o Bañadera

Refrigerator

Frigorífico o nevera

Heladera

Further resources on Spanish translation and localization

You may gain further insights into Spanish translation and related topics by reviewing previous blogs and resources written by GPI:

Globalization Partners International has created a more extensive overview of website globalization for U.S. Hispanic consumers in two white papers: Website Globalization and E-Business U.S. Hispanic Market and  Website Globalization and E-Business U.S. Hispanic Market - In Depth are available in PDF format via a free download.

You may contact GPI at info@globalizationpartners.com or at (US toll-fee) 866-272-5874 with your specific questions about Spanish translation and your project goals. You may also request a complimentary Spanish translation quote for your project as well.

Category:
Language Translation Facts
Tags:
Spanish translation, Latin America, Spanish

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Marina is a native Spanish speaker from Rosario, Argentina with over 15 years’ experience as a certified English-Spanish translator and interpreter. She graduated with a dual degree in Technical-Scientific and Literary Translation and Simultaneous and Consecutive Interpreting from the Instituto de Educación Superior Olga Cossettini in Rosario. She has extensive experience with most well known CAT tools including the range of SDL tools such as SDL Trados Studio, MultiTerm, Wordfast, SDL Idiom WorldServer, Translation Workspace, XBench, etc. She has also served as a CAT Tool Instructor conducting an average of 50 courses and workshops for many associations, private institutes and conferences. Over the years she has provided Spanish language translation and interpreting for a multitude of translation agencies, Global Fortune 500 companies, Governments and NGO’s. When not working she enjoys traveling, cooking, reading and movies with her family.