A guide to the different types of Spanish
As a company, you can definitely say we have a bit of a Spanish twist to us. Our CEO is from Peru, and Spanish is one of the languages we work with on a daily basis. Roughly 53 million people around the world speak the language, with 11.6 million bilingual Spanish speakers living here in the US.
As Spanish spans pretty much the entire globe, does that mean that it’s the same no matter where you go? Or does it vary by country or region? Spanish is a lot more complex than you’d probably first assume, so let’s take a look at the different types of Spanish and where they’re spoken.
First things first, do the different types of Spanish cause issues in understanding one another?
Luckily, the different types of Spanish aren’t quite as diverse as some of the other languages out there. Spanish speakers from around the world can understand each other – the only issue they’ll have is with certain words. Take “cajeta”, for example. In Mexico, it means spread, but in Argentina, it’s a slang word for female genitalia. Using a slightly more polite example, popcorn is known as “palomitas de maiz” in a number of Spanish-speaking countries, but in Argentina, they call it “pochoclo”. It’s just like the whole nappy/diaper or tap/faucet argument you see UK and US English speakers getting into.
Different types of Spanish we translate into
As a translation agency, it’s our job to advise companies on the right type of Spanish they need. So, the main variants we have to cover are:
- The United States. Yes, a special Spanish for the United States this is actually a thing! Did you know that New Mexico and LA have their own Spanish dialects?
- Latin America, which means:
- Plus Spanish for other smaller markets if requested
Why the differences matter
At first glance, these differences in vocabulary may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re a business looking to expand into a particular market, they really matter. You want to blend in with the locals, and if your marketing materials sport the wrong variation of Spanish, you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb. That’ll make consumers feel like you didn’t put the effort in, not to mention the impact it can have on things like multilingual SEO. Just to give you an example – say you’re a phone company looking to sell mobile phones. In Spain, your keywords would have to be related to “telefono movil”, whereas in Latin America you’d have to go for “telefono celular”. It’s only a small difference, but if your products don’t show up when your target audience is searching for them, you’re not going to sell.
Differences In Spoken Spanish
It’s not just vocabulary that varies, regional accents vary too. This is important to keep in mind if you’re ever doing voice over, for example. It’s like saying you’re an American company when your promo videos are voiced by someone from the Scottish Highlands – it doesn’t really fit.
Then you’ve got differences in regional slang. If you’ve got a product that’s targeting young people, you need to speak their language.
It’s really hard to simply divide Spanish in half, calling it Spanish in Spain and Spanish for Latin America. There are a number of different dialects within those regions, too, not to mention dialects you find in Africa! Here are a few examples:
- Espanol Rioplatense is spoken in Argentina and Uruguay, and it’s known for sounding more like Italian than Spanish. It also uses a “sh” sound instead of “y” for the letter ll.
- Espanol Caribeno is spoken in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and all along the Carribean coast. It’s actually one of the most difficult dialects for Spanish speakers from other regions to understand.
- Equatoguinean Spanish is spoken in Equatorial Guinea in West Africa. It sounds a lot more like Spanish from Spain but has a West African influence because of local native languages.
So, as you can see, expanding your business into different Spanish speaking markets requires are special touch. We love helping companies understand the complexities of the Spanish language, so please feel free to get in touch with us!