The failure of European Spanish as a one-size-fits-all language for every Spanish-speaking country in the world is illustrated by a trend in the publishing industry. Independent Spanish publishers are seeking markets beyond Europe, in both the U.S. and Latin America, since financial recovery in Spain has been slow. Interestingly both the Spanish language used and the illustrations have had to be altered in order for children to identify with the tales.
From its European birthplace, the Spanish language has traveled and taken root as a dominant language in nearly twenty other countries. And as is always the case with vibrant languages adopted in varied environments, time, oceans, and myriad human influences have ensured that European Spanish evolved in different ways than did its cousins in Latin America and elsewhere.
Spaniards can speak with Mexicans or Argentines quite easily, but their languages are different enough to create moments of confusion. Different enough, too, to create philosophical arguments over which variation of Spanish is the most beautiful, the most pure, the sexiest. And as home to the Real Academia Espanola, which regulates the language, Madrid boasts the Spanish often considered ‘most important.’
From the marketing perspective, the variations are enough to cause disconnects between a company and its customers. A word or idiom incorrectly used, for instance, can be inaccurate at best, and offensive in the worst cases. “Coger” is a good example of the extreme: in Spain it means to “grab” or “take,” as in lunch or buses, but in most Latin American countries it is a crass way of referring to sexual intercourse. “Okay” as an affirmation is “vale” in Spain, and “bien” or “okay” in Latin America. The word “camión” means “truck” in Argentina and “bus” in Mexico. And the gap created by incorrect words frequently becomes a gap in trust.
In addition to vocabulary differences, there are a few notable pronunciation variations, including:
* In some parts of Latin America, the‘s’ at the end of words is sometimes ‘eaten’, most frequently with plural nouns, or for instance in the slang version of Buenos Aires.
* ‘C’ has a pronunciation like ‘s’ through most of Latin America, and often like ‘th’ in Europe.
* In Spain, the double ‘l’ is close to the ‘y’, but in the Buenos Aires region, it’s more like ‘sh’ or ‘zh’.
Grammatical differences include different frequency of the use of the three past tense forms, and a preference in Europe for the use of ‘vosotros’ when addressing a group as ‘you’, versus ‘ustedes’.
Whether it’s advertising or a child’s story, language is an intimate tool that can connect straight to the heart – but you have to get the details right. Skrivanek Group has over two decades of experience translating Latin American to European Spanish and vice versa, and from either one into dozens of other languages.