Spanish is the world’s second-most spoken native language, with 21 Spanish-speaking countries in the world. Thus, many businesses are aiming to enter the hispanic market. But elaborating a convincing localization strategy might be a challenging undertaking since Spanish varies a lot in vocabulary and grammar among the different countries.
The following blog post is about the principal differences of the Spanish language in Spain and Latin America and gives a basic understanding about where companies should focus on when it comes to the Spanish language in a localization project.
Different words may cause confusion
Starting with the vocabulary, in Spain and in Latin America different words and expressions are used to describe the same object or action:
Spanish people like to charlar with their friends, Mexican people would platicar. (“to talk”)
Seafood lovers should order gambas in Spain and camarones in Mexico.
At the bus station in Spain people want to tomar un autobús, whereas in Mexico people are going to agarrar un camión. Going by car is conducir un coche in Spain but manejar un carro in Latin America.
On a sunny day, people put on their gafas de sol in Spain, but lentes de sol in Latin America. (“sunglasses”)
In Spain there is a zumo in the nevera, but in Latin America it is a hugo in the refrigeradora (“juice” in the “fridge“).
For “mobile phone”, the word móvil is used in Spain and celular in Latin America.
Grammatical Dissimilarities can lead to Misunderstanding
Also in Spanish grammar some differences can be found. One major dissimilarity is the use of past tense: in Latin America, the Preterite (pretérito indefinido: dije – I said) is mainly used, whereas Spaniards would rather use the Present perfect (pretérito perfecto: he dicho – I have said).
Another grammatical dissimilarity appears in the form used when addressing the interlocutor. In Latin America, instead of the 2nd person in plural (“you”) the 3rd person plural is used. For instance, this leads to the following change in the phrase “How are you doing?”: in Latin America, ¿Como están? is used, but on the other hand Spaniards tend to say ¿Como estáis?. Additionally, in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay instead of “tu” (2nd person in singular) “vos” is more commonly used.
The Diminutive form in Latin America
Latin America is famous for the use of the Diminutive form. The casa (house) in Spain gets often changed to casita in Latin America, the playa (beach) to playita. When it comes to diminutives, also the Mexican ahorita should be mentioned, which is the diminutive form of Spain’s ahora. Although the word means “now”, Mexicans use it in the meaning of “within the next hours” which might lead to intercultural misunderstanding.
This blog post gives a short overview of the variations in the Spanish language, but there are many other differences corporations have to be aware of when expanding to Spanish speaking countries.
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