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April 13, 2016
From outside the Spanish-speaking world, it is easy to reach the conclusion that the language must be the same whatever country it hails from. This, however, is a dangerous assumption. Someone who is writing from the United Kingdom, however, may use a wholly different vocabulary and range of phrasing than, for example, their counterpart in the United States or Australia, or anywhere else in the English-speaking world. Linguistic differences can be found in all nations that share a common language: and the 20 countries that use Spanish as a primary tongue are no exception.
If we take out of the equation for a moment Equatorial Guinea, the only African nation to use Spanish as an official idiom, we can roughly break up the language into two distinct regions: peninsular, and Latin American. The first group refers to the Iberian peninsula and is as you would expect the Spanish spoken in the country that gave birth to the language, Spain. You might not hear it by that name though, depending in what region you travel. The regions that make up the nation are fiercely proud of their own tongues, and in Catalunya for example the language is better known as Castellano, reflecting its origin as the native language of the Castile region rather than of Spain as a whole.
Latin America, meanwhile, or to be more or precise Hispanic America, is regularly used to denote those countries on the American continent and in the Caribbean that were colonies of Spain, and use the language in an official capacity. This giant landmass stretches from Mexico in the north right down to the bottom of Argentina, and its 418 million native speakers dwarf the number on the peninsula. For this reason, anyone looking to do business in Spanish in Latin America should pay close attention to the translations they are using.
One of the most marked contrasts in written Spanish is the difference in grammar between the two regions, a phenomenon not found in English and therefore liable to be overlooked. While Peninsular Spanish contains two pronouns for the third-person plural – the informal vosotros and informal ustedes – the former is not used anywhere across Central or South America, except for sporadic use in archaic or legal texts. The use of the past tense also varies strongly depending on what part of the world you find yourself in, and a failure to use the correct form in your target country could result in a loss of meaning or understanding for a potential client.
The development of vocabulary across such great distances since the days of the Spanish Empire, moreover, means that certain words have taken on vastly different meanings on each side of the Atlantic, or even between fellow Latin American nations. A humorous look at the some of the most common (and disastrous!) misunderstandings can be found here from a Texan learning Spanish in Argentina, but there are hundreds of such words and phrases whose meaning changes drastically depending on your current location.
For that reason, whether you are conducting business in Spain, Mexico, Argentina or anywhere in the Spanish-speaking world, hiring a native translator is the best possible way to guarantee your texts and copy will have the best impact. Latin Link prides itself on using locally-trained, proficient translators who have grown up in the culture and language you are trying to replicate, in order to give you the best service possible as you explore Latin America and its diverse cultures.
For more information on Spanish and Portuguese across South America, take a look on our website at our country profiles.