We sat down with ICD Translation’s preferred Spanish translator, Carmen, for a quick Q & A about “Choosing the Right Spanish Language.” Originally from Santiago, Chile, Carmen has been in the translation industry for 11 years and is also an Assistant Project Manager at ICD. Here she shares some insights into the Spanish language that can save you time and money when translating.

Explain the difference between the types of Spanish

We have Spanish in Spain, Latin American Spanish, and Spanish in the US. To understand the difference, it is easier to compare them with the different types of English. In UK or US, English is basically the same, but with certain variations in terms of vocabulary, pronunciation, or grammar. The differences are more obvious in spoken Spanish rather than in written Spanish. As in English, there are certain terminology differences depending on the location. 

Some basic examples are “ordenador” or “coche” (computer) in Spain, and “computadora” or “carro” (car) in Latin America. Some grammatical differences are when using pronouns, for example the use of “vosotros” in Spain, which is not used in Latin America, and so on. Any Spanish variant will be understood all over the Spanish-speaking world, but by using the correct dialect, you are showing a connection with your specific audience.

Due to their closeness and the origin from the immigrants, US Spanish is most like Latin American Spanish. And Spanish from Spain might be the most different of the three. US Spanish is influenced by English and US measurements for example, being the most characteristic for translators, using the imperial as well as metric system. More than a difference among Spanish variants would be a difference among the target audience. Children, women, young people, will have different grammar. The educational level is also very important as well as the target country.

Do you see a greater need for one over the other?

It will depend on the client’s needs. More than one over the other, we as translators should have a clear idea of the target audience. Will it be for a specific Spanish country? Do you want the translation to be understood by all Spanish speakers? Based on the target audience we should be able to choose one variant or be as universal as possible and group them all into the same one. Some clients are very specific with the city and origin of their audience, requesting the translation to be as specific in terminology and common words. In some cases, we can choose to have a native translator or editor for that target audience.

What can a client do to make the translation process easier for the translator?

Be as specific as possible. In the case of US Spanish, sometimes Spanish is their second language, or the audience is a 3rd generation immigrant and their Spanish is basic. If the translation is for business in a specific industry like medical trials, we would use the most common terms for that subject matter instead of the most common terms for a regular Spanish speaker. Some clients prefer to be as universal as possible, so the same technical document, for example, can be used in different countries.

Any translator secrets you’d like to share?

Spanish is a rich language as far as the number of words and synonyms. In Spanish literature the more words or synonyms you use the better, and for translation that is a little different. We try to be as consistent as possible and use the same terminology throughout the document. Which is why some translations look like a translation and not a text written in the original language. So, for me, the most natural translation would be one where the translator knows the target audience and subject matter so I can deliver a translation in the same meaning rather than the same format. A client can absolutely help to create a more natural translation if they are clear and communicate both at the beginning.

I’ve encountered many clients that do not know the Spanish differences. I have translated the same document for different countries, resulting in having practically the same text. That can be a waste of time and money and is simply unnecessary. Depending on what you want, we can be as specific or as universal as you want.  Both scenarios are acceptable, as long as the intention is known from the beginning. 

At ICD Translation we believe that by educating our clients, we will be able to save them valuable time and money. We have experienced, native speaking translators from around the world who are experts in various industries. Do you have a question about a translation project? We are here to help.

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