Un Gato, El Gato: Indefinite and Definite Articles

Indefinite and Definite Articles

Like in the English language, the Spanish language has both indefinite and definite articles that communicate if we are referring to something specific or to something general. We use definite articles when we are discussing a specific noun and indefinite articles when discussing a general noun. For example, if we are talking about a specific cat we say “el gato”. Using a definite article communicates that there is a specific cat in mind; this is equivalent to saying “the cat” in the English language. On the other hand, we use indefinite articles when discussing something in general or one of many things. Using the previous example, if we say “un gato” or “a cat” we could be referring to any cat, or one cat in a group of many.

Indefinite Articles

The Spanish language indefinite articles are: un, unos, una, unas. These indefinite articles are equivalent to the English language “a”, “an”, or “some”. However, unlike English language articles, Spanish language articles change based on the gender of the noun as well as the number (singular or plural). For example, a table in Spanish is the feminine noun, “mesa” so we say “una mesa”. If we are talking about “some tables” we need to use a plural and feminine indefinite article so we would say “unas mesas”.

  Singular Plural
Masculine un unos
Feminine una unas

For example:

Hay un libro en el suelo – There is a book on the floor. (un libro is masculine and singular)

Dame una manzana – Give me an apple. (una manzana is feminine and singular)

Compré unos zapatos ayer  – I bought some shoes yesterday.  (unos zapatos are masculine and plural)

Quiero unas galletas – I want some cookies. (unas galletas are feminine and plural)

Definite Articles

The Spanish language definite articles are: el, los, la, las

  Singular Plural
Masculine El los
Feminine La Las

These definite articles are equivalent to the English language article “the”. In the English language the definite article does not need to match gender or number of its noun like it does in the Spanish language. For example, in English we can say “the bicycle” or “the bicycles” but in Spanish we must change articles based on the number gender so we say either “la bicicleta” or “las bicicletas” using the plural and feminine definite article “la”.

Here are some examples of definite articles in a sentence:

Tengo el libro en mi mano – I have the book in my hand. (el libro is masculine and singular)

La manzana es rojo – The apple is red. (la manzana is feminine and singular)

Me gusta los zapatos de Maria – I like Maria’s shoes. (los zapatos are masculine and plural)

Dame las galletas chocolates – Give me the chocolate cookies. (las galletas are feminine and plural)

The Importance of Using Correct Articles

When using definite or indefinite articles in the Spanish language you must be certain that you are using the article of the correct gender and number. This is why it is important that any documents or texts for your business or personal use are translated or edited by Spanish language experts, so they are free of errors. Spanish translation and copy editing services such as Spanish with Style will ensure your documents and texts are translated by Spanish language experts.

Essential Spanish: Ser or Estar?

Essential Spanish Ser or Estar

One of the most confusing parts in the experience of learning the Spanish language can be the verbs ser and estar. Both these verbs have the same meaning as English language verb to be but are used in different ways. The simplest way to think about the difference is that ser is used when speaking of the essence of something or something that is permanent, while estar is used when speaking of the state of something, or something that is impermanent. In this article we will discuss how to properly translate the verb to be to either ser or estar while considering the following:

  • Using ser for the essence of something and estar for the state of something
  • Using mnemonic devices to remember when to use ser and estar
  • The importance of using ser and estar correctly to maintain nuance and meaning

Essence versus State

We use ser to describe the essence of something, and estar to describe its state. In fact, ser comes from the latin word esse, meaning essence in English, and estar comes from the latin word stare meaning state. In contrast, in the English language we use the verb to be to denote both state and essence.

The state of a subject is usually impermanent, so most grammar guides encourage Spanish language learners to remember to use estar in impermanent cases and ser for permanent cases. For example, if I say “yo estoy feliz” (I am happy), it means that my current mood is happy but that can change at any moment, I am in an impermanent state of happiness. We can also say “el lapiz está en el suelo” (the pen is on the floor), the pen is currently on the floor, but it can be moved, its current location (or state) is impermanent.

Ser, on the other hand, is used for more permanent cases such as one’s nationality. You say “Vanessa es colombiana” to mean Vanessa is Colombian; her Colombian nationality is permanent and a part of her essence as a person. We also use ser for physical descriptions. For example, “las montañas son grandes” (the mountains are big) describes the permanent characteristics, or essence, of the mountains. Another example is when telling time. We say “son las diez y media de la noche” (it is ten thirty pm) we are describing the time in one specific moment. Similarly, we also use ser for describing where an event is taking place “Ia fiesta es en su casa” (the party is in her house), the specific event is happening in one place in one moment.Using Mnemonic Devices

As previously mentioned, in the English language the verb to be is equivalent to both Spanish language verbs ser and estar. These are also copular verbs, meaning they are verbs that link an adjective or noun to a subject. To help remember how to use ser and estar Spanish language learners can remember the mnemonic devices D.O.T. (description, origin, time) for ser and Lo.Co. (location and condition) for estar.  Here are some examples of use for each of these cases:

Uses of Ser

D: Description

Ella es alta (she is tall). We use ser because an essential physical characteristic of the girl is that she is tall.

Yo soy un professor (I am a teacher). Here we use ser because someone’s profession is seen as part of who they are, their essence, even if one’s profession may change throughout their life.

Él es amable (he is a friendly person).  Again, we use ser because one of the characteristics of this man’s personality is that he is friendly.

O: Origin

Yo soy Maria (I am Maria). We use ser to state names because they are part of a person’s essence.

La cartera es de cuero (the wallet is made of leather). We use ser because the essence of the wallet is leather, if it is made of leather it cannot be changed.

T: Time

Son las tres de la tarde (It is three pm). We use ser for telling what time it is at any specific moment.

Hoy es lunes el primero de agosto (today is Monday, the first of August). Today can never be another date so we use ser.

Uses of Estar

Lo: Location

La tienda está en la calle Independencia (The shop is on Independencia Street). We always use estar for location, where something is currently, including the address.

Yo estoy en la escuela ahora (I am in the school now).  We use estar for locations of people and things (but not events).

Las llaves están en la mesa (the keys are on the table).  This sentence describes the current location of the keys so we use estar.

Co: Condition

Él está feliz (he is happy). The current condition of the man is that he is happy. He is feeling happy in this moment, but that feeling can change.

Siempre estoy cansado por la mañana (I am always tired in the morning).  We use estar here even though I am always tired in the morning, being tired is a state that will change; it is not an essential part of who I am.

Catalina está enferma (Catalina is sick). This sentence means that Catalina is currently, but not permanently, sick so we use estar.

The Importance of Proper Usage of Ser and Estar

As you can see, when translating from the English language verb to be it is important to use the correct Spanish language translation or the nuances of the text may be changed. If one chooses the incorrect verb, a native Spanish language speaker will immediately notice the error, and the translated document will seem unprofessional. Furthermore, if one chooses the incorrect verb, the meaning of the sentence will change. Imagine the offense that could be taken if someone wanted to express that Jaime is feeling bored but they wrote “Jaime es aburrido”, meaning Jaime is boring, when they should have written “Jaime está aburrido”.

Unless one is a Spanish language expert, it is easy to make mistakes using ser and estar. That is why it is important to always use Spanish translation and copy editing services from professionals at Spanish with Style. The Spanish language experts at Spanish with Style will ensure that the quality of the translated text is excellent with all the nuances of the original text maintained.

The United States and the Battle for an Official Language

The United States and the Battle for an Official Language

Does the United States have an official language? In short, no, but in reality it is a much more complicated issue that can be difficult to understand. The original constitution of the United States did not enshrine any particular language as the official language, and there continues to be no federal legislation declaring any one language as the “official” language of the United States. Despite this, all legislation, regulations, treaties, ballots, and other federal communications are produced in the English language. Despite this, many states also produce official documents and communications in other languages, such as Spanish, German, Chinese, Korean, and other indigenous languages. This is even true when that state has passed a local law declaring English to be their only official language, because government officials understand the importance of using translation services to communicate with all of their constituents. In this article, we will discuss the question of an official language in the United States today and outline the following topics:

  • De facto official languages
  • Which states have declared an official language
  • Could Spanish be an official language
  • The “English Only Movement” to declare English as the sole official language

De Facto Official Languages

English is the de facto official language of the United States at a federal level, as well as at state levels. This means that all legislation, ballots, regulations and other government communications are produced in English. Some states also produce materials in other languages in addition to English for government communications. These states include Louisiana, which uses both English and French; Pennsylvania, which uses both English and German; New Mexico, which uses English and Spanish; and California, which has many Spanish language speakers in particular, and produces materials in at least nine languages.

States with Official Languages

31 of 50 states have adopted legislation declaring official languages; all 31 of those states recognize English as their official language, but some also recognize other languages. Hawaii has adopted both English and Hawaiian as their official languages while Alaska recognizes numerous indigenous languages as official alongside English. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico recognizes both English and Spanish as official languages, but most Puerto Ricans only speak Spanish.

In some states that have declared English as an official language, there is no further regulation for using English in official capacities. In these states, such as Illinois and Missouri, the designation is largely ceremonial and does not impose any limitations on translating communications and texts. In fact, in these states ballots and other official documents are often produced in many languages. In other states, such as Tennessee, the state requires that all communication produced by the government be only in English. In some states, the legislation is even stricter; for example, the constitution of California states that the government “take all steps necessary to insure that the role of English as the common language … is preserved and enhanced,” but this legislation does not seem to be particularly enforced.

 Could Spanish be an official language?

It is ironic that California, a state with a Spanish language name and where the Spanish language is so widespread, going as far back as the first settlements in the 17th and 18th century, would have a law preserving the English language. In fact, until 1870 the constitution of California recognized both the English language and the Spanish language as official.

California is not the only jurisdiction in the United States to declare Spanish as an official language. As previously mentioned, it is also one of the official languages of The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The majority of the population of Puerto Rico are Spanish language speakers, and as such, it is important that they conduct government business in that language. As the number of Spanish language speakers in the United States increases, it will become even more important for governments to provide services and documentation in the Spanish language, however not all Americans support that.

English as an Official Language Movement

In recent years, many Americans and lawmakers have pushed to create legislation declaring English as the official language of the United States, perhaps as a reaction to the increasing importance of the Spanish language across the country. The modern day “English-Only Movement” originated in the early 1980s when Virginia declared English as its official language. Around this time, a group called “U.S. English” started to lobby for English to be the official language of all states and the country as a whole at the federal level. In 1996, after extensive lobbying by the English-Only Movement, a bill proposing to make English the official language passed in the House of Representatives, but the Senate never signed it into law, leaving the country still without an official language.

More recently, in Nashville in 2009, voters rejected a law that would have prohibited the government from using languages other than English. While in 2012, ex-Senator Rick Santorum publicly stated that he believed Puerto Rico, a predominantly Spanish speaking territory, should adopt English as its primary language if it wants to gain statehood. Santorum was widely criticized for ignoring the importance of the Spanish language in the lives of Puerto Ricans. Today, five states are considering establishing English as their one and only official language, these states are Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

There is widespread support for English as an official language, according to a 2010 poll, 87% of Americans support making English an official language. However, many people are critical of the movement. Critics argue that it is not a unifying endeavor, and it promotes xenophobia. The ACLU believes that efforts to make English the only official language, and to limit the availability of government communication in other languages is a violation of the first amendment rights of free speech and the ability to communicate with the government.

 English is the most common language spoken in the United States, so governments consistently produce communications, legislation and regulations in English. However, today there are more than 35 million native Spanish language speakers in the United States, with millions more speaking Spanish as a second language or currently studying the Spanish language. State and federal governments are aware of the importance of this demographic so they translate all of their official documents, ballots and other communications into the Spanish language. Governments understand the importance of using translation and copy-editing services such as Spanish with Style to ensure that the quality of the translated text they are distributing to their constituents is impeccable.

Spanish Language: An Integral part of the History of the United States

Spanish Language An Integral part of the History of the United States

The Spanish language is becoming increasingly important in the United States every year, with more Spanish speakers coming into the country both as tourists and as new residents. Since 1990 the number of native Spanish language speakers in the United States has increased from 11 million to 41 million. This demographic is more important than ever both culturally and economically, and cannot be ignored by businesses. But did you know that even though the English language is the official language in the United States, that the Spanish language actually predates English? This article will discuss the history of the Spanish language in the United States from the first European explorers through the official creation of the United States.

Colonial Use of the Spanish Language

After Christopher Columbus’ expedition under the purview of the Spanish Throne, Spain continued to expand their territories in the so-called “New World”. Spain saw the great potential that existed in the Americas and set out to exploit it as best they could. They sent their ships throughout the area and made sure to explore and conquer as much of the land as they could.

The first European explorer to touch ground on the continental United States was the Spaniard Juan Ponce de León in 1513. He landed on the southern part of the United States and named it La Florida, meaning “the land of flowers”, the name that the state still retains today. He continued to explore the southern Floridian coast as well as the Florida Keys. Ponce de León was the first in a long line of Spanish explorers on the continent. Over the next few decades, Spanish explorers would travel throughout the continental United States including to the Grand Canyon, Mississippi River, and the Gulf of California.

Two other important early explorers from Spain were Hernando de Soto and Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. In 1540 they both began exploring different regions in the continental United States. Hernando de Soto explored the southeastern United States from Tampa Bay to to South Carolina crossing the Mississippi River. He explored modern day Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. At the same time, Vásquez de Coronado traveled across the Mexican-Arizona border and all the way to Kansas. About 50 years later, in 1592, Juan de Fuca explored the western coast of the United States. He sailed up the west coast of Mexico to Vancouver Island looking for a passage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.

Spanish Language Settlements

Spanish explorers founded some of the first settlements and colonies in the United States. As early as 1527 the Spanish had already created the first settlement in the United States, San Miguel de Guadalupe in Georgia. That settlement only lasted 3 months, but within 40 years the explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés had also founded St. Augustine, Florida. This settlement is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States and even predates even the Plymouth Colony at Plymouth Rock by more than 50 years (settled in 1620). The Spanish even held a Thanksgiving feast in St Augustine, 56 years before the English speaking pilgrims.

More settlements were created in the years that followed as farmers and craftsmen journeyed across the ocean, and explorers brought their families over. They established a settlement at modern day Parris Island, South Carolina called Santa Elena to protect the treasure they were taking from their newly explored landed and sending back to Europe. Spanish settlers also landed in the town of Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is now the oldest state capital in the United States. At the time, in 1610, Santa Fe was inhabited by indigenous peoples who had been living in the area for about 500 years. Santa Fe was under continuous Spanish control except from 1680 – 1692 when it was conquered by the indigenous Pueblo people. After the Spanish regained control, it remained so until the Mexican War of Independence.

Colonization of the Western United States by the Spanish was slower. The first settlements were missions established in California after 1697, first in Baja California then expanding throughout the region. By the 1800s there were many Spanish missions in California, predominantly along El Camino Real, “The Royal Road”, that allowed easy passage between each mission and still exists today. The purpose of these missions was to spread Christianity to indigenous peoples, and with that they also spread Spanish language and culture. Many indigenous people in California also learned to speak Spanish while working on Spanish ranches.

 Territories Change Hands and Gain Independence

Many territories passed hands between Spain and Great Britain because of wars or trading of land. Spain traded control of Florida to Great Britain in exchange for Havana, Cuba, in 1763. But Florida only remained under Great Britain’s command until 1783 when the American Revolutionary War ended. The American Revolutionary War was fought by mostly English speaking settlers in the British owned colonies, but they had foreign support from Spain, who provided them with weapons and other supplies. After the war ended Florida was returned to Spain. It was only in 1821 that Florida became an American state through the Adams-Onis Treaty.

Throughout the time of colonization, Spain had a large influence on much of the Americas. The Spanish conquered much of the Caribbean and West Indies, including what is now Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, along with parts of Central and South America. The most significant area of conquer for the Spanish was arguably Mexico, where they conquered the powerful Aztec Empire. After the conquest the Spanish took control over the area and made many settlements.

Through these settlements the Spanish language became pervasive in the region.

Mexico eventually gained independence from Spain in 1821, but at this time Mexican territory expanded across many areas that are now part of the United States. Texas, was one of the states originally a part of Mexico and was full of native Spanish language speakers.

After the Mexican War of Independence, many American English language speakers immigrated to Texas. By 1836 so many Americans were living in Texas that they demanded independence from Mexico and fought their own war of independence. Texas remained an independent state from 1836 until it was finally integrated into the United States in 1846.

Territories in California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Utah were also a part of Mexico after the Mexican War of Independence until the Mexican – American War in 1846. America won much of the Northern part of Mexico’s territory in the war, and in doing so incorporated many Spanish language speakers into the United States. These Spanish language speakers were now Americans and continued to speak their native language despite their country’s border changing.

Spanish Language in America Today

The United States is uniquely situated in the world with such a rich cultural history of both Spanish language speakers and English language speakers. However, the influence of the Spanish language on American culture is not only historical, it is also the future of the nation as more Spanish language speakers immigrate every year.

This is why it is increasingly important for businesses in the United States and businesses with customers in the United States, to provide accurate materials in both English and Spanish to remain relevant and communicate effectively with all potential customers. This is why it is so important that companies use Spanish language translation and copy-editing services such as Spanish with Style to guarantee they have the highest quality translated text.

Blending Cultures: Spanish Words English Speakers Use Everyday

Blending Cultures Spanish Words English Speakers Use Everyday

It is common to hear Spanish language words like bodega, fiesta or burritos daily across the United states. With 45 million Spanish language speakers, the Spanish language is influencing the everyday language of Americans. With many immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries, words for Mexican and other Latin foods are pervasive.  Culturally significant words like quinceañera have also been adopted by Americans. Many other words with Spanish origins, such as chocolate, used in the United States today were passed down from the Spanish colonists to the Americas.

Food with a Spanish Language Influence

Mexican food is very popular in the United States, and with it we have adopted many Spanish language words. For example, salsa simply means sauce in the Spanish language but is not used to refer to a specific type of (often spicy) tomato based sauce commonly used on tacos or eaten with nacho chips. Taco is the Spanish language name for one of the most common and beloved foods in America, which of course originated in Mexico. Another popular food with a Mexican influence and Spanish name are burritos, which have similar flavors and ingredients as tacos, but actually originated in the United States and not Mexico. Burrito comes from the Spanish language word, burro, meaning a small donkey. Cilantro, a common ingredient in Mexican food, is actually the Spanish language word for the herb that is known in other English speaking countries as coriander. The piña colada, a popular cocktail, made with pineapple and coconut milk is Spanish for strained pineapple.

Cultural Influences

Many common words that are used daily have a Spanish language origin. For example, the word bodega comes from the Spanish language word meaning a cellar or place where wine is stored, but in the United States it means a corner store. Macho, a Spanish word denoting masculinity, has become a popular way to describe tough or very masculine men in the United States. Siesta, meaning the afternoon nap commonly taken at midday in Spain, can also be commonly heard when people discuss taking an afternoon break. The similarly sounding fiesta, from the Spanish word for party, has been adapted by many English language speakers. Another common word for a party is quinceañera, a Spanish language compound of quince and años, translates directly to fifteen years. The popular quinceañera parties (or fiestas) celebrate the coming of age of Mexican girls on their fifteenth birthday, similar to the “sweet 16” parties popular in English speaking United States.

Colonial influence

Many of the Spanish language words that you will hear regularly in the United States were words that Spanish colonists borrowed from indigenous languages. Barbecue, from barbacoa, was taken from the Taino language by Spanish explorers to the Bahamas. Potatoes, which are native to South America, comes from the Spanish patate but was originally batata in Taino. Chocolate was developed from the Nahuatl word xocolatl and was subsequently adapted into English.

Importance of Spanish in Everyday American Life

Spanish words have been adapted by the English language for centuries and are becoming increasingly prevalent as an increasing amount of the population of the United States are now Spanish language speakers. As such, the Spanish language is increasingly more important to daily life in the United States and it is important to use Spanish words appropriately with an understanding of their historical, cultural and social implications. As businesses and individuals are using more Spanish daily and seeking translation and copy editing services, the Spanish language experts and copy writing professionals at Spanish with Style will guarantee that your text is translated into perfect Spanish with an understanding of all the nuances of the language.

Spanish Names, American Cities

Spanish Names, American Cities

If you drive through California you will quickly notice places with Spanish sounding names such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Sacramento and many many more. A first-time visitor would be forgiven for thinking California is an officially Spanish speaking state. However, such as in many areas throughout the United States, California has numerous places with Spanish language names, but that are actually not primarily inhabited by Spanish speakers.

California’s official name, California, even has a Spanish origin, and it was named after a fictional island in a 16th century Spanish novel. California is one of five states with Spanish language translations. The other five states are, Montana; Nevada, meaning “snow-covered”, for the Sierra Nevada (which translates to snow-covered Mountains in English); Arizona and Colorado, meaning “reddish”, named for the appearance of the Colorado River. Additionally, the Spanish speaking territory of Puerto Rico comes from the Spanish language translation of “rich port”.

Many cities, towns, counties, and neighborhoods also have Spanish names. El Paso, Texas, translates to “the passage”. It is named such because the city lies in a passage between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra de Juarez. Fresno, California, means “ash tree” in English and is named after the plentiful ash trees in that city.  Las Cruces, New Mexico, comes from the Spanish word for “crosses”.

Many famous natural sites also have Spanish names. For example, the Sacramento Mountains in New Mexico are named for the Catholic “sacrament”. El Capitan translating to “the captain” is the name of a peak in Texas and a rock formation in California. The famous island prison Alcatraz translates in Spanish to “pelican” because the island was once solely inhabited by pelicans.

Why do so many places in the United States have Spanish language names? As we will discuss in this article, Spanish place names came to be under a variety of circumstances:

  • Spanish Place Names with Spanish Colonial History
  • Spanish Place Names with a Post-Colonial Spanish History
  • Spanish Sounding Place Names Falsely Attributed to the Spanish Language

Spanish Place Names with Spanish Colonial History

 Spanish conquistadors first settled areas that are now the United States, along with much of South and Central America, in the 1500s. Most areas with Spanish names received them from Spanish speaking settlers who colonized the areas hundreds of years ago. You can still see these settlements today in towns such as St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest continually settled town in the United States; Ysleta, Texas, the oldest European settlement in Texas; or Santa Fe, New Mexico, which translates to “holy faith”.

Many areas of the modern day United States were owned by Spain before being transferred or annexed by the United States. The state of Florida was sold to the USA by Spain in 1819. You can still see the Spanish colonial history in cities with Spanish names such as Boca Raton, meaning Thieves Village, Cape Canaveral, translating to Cape of Canes, and Miramar meaning Sea View.

Texas was also once colonized by Spain and became part of Mexico in the Mexican War of Independence. Shortly after, Texas fought their own war to become an independent country, the República de Texas (Texas Republic) and later joined the United States.

We can still see the colonial history in names of cities such as San Antonio, named for the feast of St Anthony of Padua (San Antonio in Spanish) which fell on the day settlers camped near the San Antonio River, and later gave its name to the city. Another feast was responsible for the naming of the town Corpus Christi. The town Amarillo gets its name, meaning “yellow”, from the yellow wildflowers and yellow soil in the area.

In the Mexican-American war, a large part of the Mexican territory was annexed by the United States. This included parts of modern day Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, California, Nevada, and Utah. As we mentioned earlier, some of these states have names with Spanish origins. They are also home to many cities and towns with Spanish names. Los Alamos, New Mexico is named for the poplar trees that grow in the area. La Paz County, Arizona, meaning “the peace” and La Plata County in Colorado meaning “silver”, to mention just a few.

Spanish Place Names with a Post-Colonial Spanish History

Many cities, landmarks and other places have been named in post-colonial times due to the influx and influence of Spanish speaking immigrants. Lake Buena Vista, Florida was named in 1969 after a place in California. A neighborhood in Queens, New York is called Corona, meaning it is the “crown” of Queens County. Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley, California is named after Hispanic-American activist Cesar Chavez. The community of Estrella, Arizona meaning “star”, and it’s neighboring community Montecito, meaning “little mountain” show the continued influence of the Spanish language on developments throughout the United States.

 Spanish Sounding Place Names Falsely Attributed to the Spanish Language

Some place names simply sound Spanish, but have no Spanish origin. Eldorado, Illinois, for example would translate to “The Golden” but the town name actually came from two English surnames Elder and Read being put together to form “Elder-Reado” and eventually “Eldorado”.

Some cities were given Spanish language names simply because the inhabitants wanted to translate the words into Spanish. Using direct translation Sierra Vista, Arizona means “mountain view”, but this is not proper form in Spanish. A better translation, if done by a professional, would be Miramonte or Mirasierra. The Texan town San Angelo was named after the town founder’s wife, Caroline Angela and originally called Santa Angela then later San Angela, an ungrammatical construction in the Spanish language. The town name eventually changed to the grammatically correct, but masculine, San Angelo.

As you can see, even official names can have errors in translation. This only emphasizes the need to leave translation projects up to the Spanish language experts. Professional translation services such as Spanish with Style guarantee the accuracy of translations, avoiding possible embarrassment or confusion due to miss-translated messages. Without a professional Spanish language translator it can be incredibly easy to make a mistake, particularly by attempting to translate a phrase directly, ignoring the nuanced differences between the languages and arriving at a result that does not make sense to a native speaker.

Differences between Spanish from Spain and that of Latin America

Differences between Spanish from Spain and that of Latin America

Differences between Spanish dialects and accents spoken around the world can vary considerably from country to country or even from town to town, but none more so than between Spain and Latin America. Spain may be the mother of the language, but like most children’s relationship to their parents, Latin America has differentiated itself over the years and emerged with its own linguistic identity.

The differences between Spain Spanish and Latin American Spanish are more evident in spoken form than written, although certain differences in vocabulary and verb usage certainly exist there too.

All in all, if you are a fluent Spanish speaker, you will most certainly be understood when speaking to a member of almost any Spanish speaking community. This doesn’t mean that what you say will be particularly clear or correct, and many words have vastly different meanings between regions.

Spanish speakers, for the most part, understand each other in the same way that English speakers from the USA or Australia, for example, are able to have a mutually intelligible conversation without the need for interpreters or translators. That being said, if the conversation goes on long enough, the Australian will surely end up using a word or sentence that draws an inquisitive glance from the American speaker. In both English and Spanish, the more highly “educated” versions of the language will be reasonably similar, and most of the major differences occur in the casual colloquialisms.

In this article we will examine some of differences between these two dialects of Spanish, as well as some of the reasons linguists believe these differences have occurred.

  • Spain vs Latin America: Why such linguistic variation?
  • Spoken Differences: The Spain accent versus Latin American accents
  • Written Differences: Vocabulary and verb conjugation on the Iberian peninsula and Latin America

Spain vs Latin America: Why such Linguistic Variation?

The first question that some may ask is why is there such a strong variation between the two dialects, after all, both regions officially speak the same language. There are several theories on the matter, and at the end of the day, no one can say for sure. This being said, here are some of the most common theories shared by linguists and historians alike.

Firstly, many historians hypothesize that the majority of early conquistadors (Spanish colonists) originated from more rural areas of Spain, where regional dialects spoken at that time period more closely match modern linguistic trends of Latin America.

Secondly, a reason for such linguistic variation between Spanish dialects could be attributed to something called “linguistic lag.” This refers to the colonial speaker’s inability to keep up with language innovations of the mother country, often due to isolation and communication limitations, as this was of course in the days before telephone and internet. This effect is noticeable among other diasporic linguistic communities, and can be seen in the differences between the French language in Quebec, Canada and French from France. It is widely agreed that Quebecois French more closely resembles 17th century French than modern French from France.

Thirdly, Spanish has not been the only linguistic influence in Latin America. Particularly during the time of colonization, many other language groups were active and left their mark on modern Latin American Spanish. These influences can be attributed to pre-colonial indigenous languages as well as other immigrant groups from different parts of the world, Europe in particular.

A final reason could be attributed to politics and the sometimes strained relationship between the “motherland” of Spain and the Latin American region. It is possible that speakers in Latin America deliberately emphasized local differences in order to differentiate themselves and solidify their own identities, particularly when they were attempting to assert their independence.

Spoken Differences: The Spain Accent Vs Latin American Accents

The difference in accent between the two forms of Spanish, that of the Iberian Peninsula and that of South and Central America, is the most immediately noticeable difference. This difference in accent between Spain and Latin America can be compared to the difference in accent between American English and British English. Similarly, there are regional accents within both the UK and the United States, but regardless, those accents can be clearly attributed to either region. The same goes for regional differences in Spain and especially Latin America, which is home to incredibly diverse communities of speakers.

The clearest difference between the accents of these two Spanish dialects is what is linguistically referred to as seseo and distinción. In Latin america, they speak with what is called seseo, which means words containing {s} or {z} sounds are typically both pronounced as {s}, as in the beginning of the word Spanish. In Spain, however they speak with what is called distinción, where {s} and {z} sounds are pronounced as {th}, as in the beginning of the word Thin. Take for example the word gracias, meaning thank you. This would typically be pronounced as graSias in Latin America and graTHias in Spain.

Speakers from Spain will often be described as speaking with a lisp, which while not accurate, is an apt description when describing this difference to an English speaker. This Spanish “lisp” is said to have been derived from sounds that existed in a previous dialect of Spanish commonly spoken in medieval times.

Written Differences: Vocabulary and Verb Conjugation on the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America

In addition to the differences between accents, differences can also be seen in grammar usage, vocabulary and even verb conjugation. Some of these differences are more subtle than others, but no less revealing in terms of what side of the pond that speaker belongs to.An example of a more subtle but nevertheless important difference, is something called leísmo. This refers to the habit of using an indirect object pronoun (le) in place of the masculine direct object pronoun (lo) that is typical of Spaniard speakers. The preferencing of le is why it is caled leísmo. While this is not officially grammatically correct, it is standard enough practice in Spain to be typical of a speaker from that region. An example of this would be saying le veo instead of lo veo for “I saw him”.

Another major difference can be spotted in the way they address others, and the verbs they use to do so. In Spain, the more casual way to address someone would be by using vos or vosotros, and conjugating the verb accordingly. In Latin America, they almost never use vosotros, preferring instead to us for the singular and ustedes for the plural, and their associated conjugations.

Lastly, choosing the appropriate vocabulary can be a minefield, as many words mean something completely different when used on either side of the ocean. For example, in Spain a cell phone is referred to as a telefono movíl, while in Latin America they say celular. This is very similar to the difference between British English (mobile phone) and American English (cell phone).

Other differences can range from something as innocuous as the word zumo, meaning juice in Spain and pulp in Latin America, to something more confusing such as the Spain word coche for car, but meaning baby carriage in much of Latin America. It is also possible to misstep and accidentally say something incredibly vulgar. Take for example the verb coger, an incredibly commonly used verb in Spain that can mean anything from grabbing, fetching, catching or taking. This verb is used for catching a bus, taking a taxi and fetching a takeout order among many other instances. In Latin America, however, its only use is in a vulgar context.

As you can see, it’s small but important linguistic variances such as this that can make all the difference when you are attempting to tailor your message to a particular group of Spanish speakers. Using the correct word or verb conjugation can take your message from offensive at worst, comprehensible at best, to polished and professional. This is why it is particularly important to entrust all translation needs to Spanish translation and copy editing professionals, such as those at Spanish with Style. All of the Spanish language experts at Spanish with Style are highly trained to understand regional differences and will ensure your message is being communicated clearly and effectively, as well as tailoring it to its intended audience.

Accentuating Clarity: The Importance of using proper Accents in Spanish Writing

Accentuating Clarity The Importance of using proper Accents in Spanish Writing

One of the more difficult aspects when translating a written document into Spanish, particularly as a native English speaker, is determining the proper placement of accents. The English language does not employ accents, and as such this can be a new and difficult concept to properly master.

When translating a document from English into Spanish, it is important to write correctly in order to be taken seriously, and for your message to be understood in the way in which it was intended. This includes the proper use of accents, which will always fall on a vowel, and will help determine the proper pronunciation and meaning of a given word.

In this article we will discuss the following points:

  • Why using proper accents is important in Spanish language orthography
  • Basic grammatical rules surrounding the proper use of accents in written Spanish
  • Why using a professional Spanish translation and copy editing service is imperative

Why Using Proper Accents is Important in Spanish Language Orthography

Knowing when to use the proper accent marks when writing text in Spanish is important for several reasons. Firstly, you want your document to appear polished and professional, and that means everything in its right place – including accents.

Secondly, you want your message to be understood quickly and easily, without the reader having to strain to find meaning in what they are reading. Even if you are certain a Spanish reader will be able to understand a document lacking in accents in the end, omitting them can cause undue lexical stress which greatly affects reading ease and visual recognition of words. This can, in the end, affect the impression the reader ultimately has of your document, and can cause confusion about meanings.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, using or not using accents can significantly alter the meaning of a word. This can cause confusion or lead to the misinterpretation of your message. Take for example the very simple and commonly used word mas in Spanish. Without the accent this word means ‘but’, with the accent, más, however, means ‘more’. While context could potentially lead the reader to understand which mas is meant, there is still a chance of uncertainty. The same goes for the word si or sí, which means ‘yes’ or ‘if’ respectively. In an important document, “if” is a long way off from a wholehearted “yes”.

Yet another example that highlights to what extent an accent can alter the meaning of a words is when you compare the words animales meaning ‘animals’ and anímales meaning ‘animate yourselves’. Imagine you were attempting to condemn poor behaviour by referring to a group of people as animals, but instead appeared to be encouraging their behaviour by calling for the group to ‘animate themselves’.

To make sure that your message is understood correctly by the intended Spanish speaking audience, it is important to show that you are considerate of the reader and respectful of the Spanish language, which includes using all pertinent accents correctly.

Basic Grammatical Rule Surrounding the Proper Use of Accents in Written Spanish

Accents in Spanish are used for one purpose: to determine where the stress of a word will fall. There are two basic rules outlining where the emphasis should typically be in any given word, and if the stress on that word should fall outside of those two specific parameters, it is important to place an accent so the reader or speaker knows where to add the appropriate stress.

As we discussed previously, emphasizing a different part of a word can alter its meaning dramatically. This happens in English as well – take for example the English words produce or to produce- one is a noun referring to vegetables, and the other a verb that means to make something. In English the meaning of these words are differentiated by altering the stressed syllable of the word. It is perhaps even more confusing in English, as we don’t have an accent mark to guide us.

The two basic rules for determining where to emphasize a words are as follows:

  1. For words that end in either a vowel, an N or an S, the stress will automatically fall on the second to last syllable.
  2. For words ending in a consonant other than N or S, the rule states that the stress should fall on the last syllable.

There are several other minor rules determining use of accents, for example, interrogative words such as who, what, when, where and how all have accents:  quién, qué, cuándo, dónde and cómo. When these question words are instead used as pronouns, then the accent is dropped.

Why Using a Professional Spanish Translation and Copy Editing Service is Imperative

Even if you are a native Spanish speaker, or speak a high level of Spanish, it can be difficult to know how important accents are. Many Spanish speakers omit accents in causal circumstances such as when writing text messages, Facebook messages or casual emails. However, this can come off as exceedingly casual and colloquial. Additionally, it can be awkward to easily and efficiently change an English keyboard language to be able to type correctly with accents.

When making the decision to translate your texts or documents from English to Spanish, it is incredibly important to entrust your translation to a Spanish translation and copy editing professional, such as the Spanish language experts at Spanish with Style. This way you can be certain that your document is professional and accurate, and that your message is being delivered in the clear and concise manner in which it was intended.

Same Spanish Word, Different Spanish Meaning

Same Spanish Word, Different Spanish Meaning

Speakers of the Spanish language span an incredibly large portion of the globe, from Europe to both South and Central America, and even the Philippines. It’s relatively easy to understand that there may be variations between local dialects of Spanish in areas that are geographically very separate from each other such as between Spain and South America, or the Philippines. All too often, however, the Spanish of Latin America gets grouped together as if it was one, cohesive dialect of Spanish.

Latin America’s Spanish Diversity Underestimated

Although Latin America is often referred to as if it was a cohesive unit, if we take a closer look we can see that Latin America is comprised of an incredibly diverse group of countries spanning an incredibly large distance. Latin America is actually comprised of 26 different countries and territories, and spans nearly 6,215 miles (10,000km) from the Mexican border to the tip of Argentina. In fact, the South American portion of Latin America alone is comprised of 12% of the total surface area of the earth. For comparison, the United States of America spans only 1.58% of the total surface area of the earth.

Additionally, Latin America was colonized over an incredibly long period of time, from the late 1400’s through to the 1800’s, allowing for many distinctive regional variations to develop. Even after Latin America had experienced intense colonization, the landscape over much of the continent is mountainous, desert or dense jungle, which limited people’s movement and thus interactions with each other. This was incredibly effective in allowing local versions of Spanish to flourish independently, without much influence from outside sources.

The diversity of Latin America gives rise to many local variations in language, some taking some cues from the indigenous languages that pre-dated the arrival of the Spanish language. A good example of this phenomenon is the Spanish word for avocado, which is aguacate in many more Northern countries such as Mexico and Guatemala, and palta when we head south to countries such as Chile and Ecuador. Both aguacate and palta can be traced back to their roots in local indigenous languages.

Same Spanish Word, Different Spanish Meaning

Where things begin to become more confusing, however, is when one word has multiple meanings across different Latin American countries. It is actually surprisingly common that not only will countries have regional vocabulary variations, but will assign new and often wildly different definitions do identical words.

Even really common words can vary wildly across destinations. Take for example the word for car, which is one of the more commonly used words in most countries of the world. In Spanish, the word carro is commonly used in countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, and places in the Caribbean. The word is derived from the old word for ‘carriage’. The word carro, however, can also mean cart or wheelbarrow in places such as Chile or Argentina.

In Mexico they use the word coche for car, which is also the word they use for car in Spain. Coche, however, means baby carriage in Chile – and you can imagine how embarrassing it would be to tell people you arrived to the meeting by coche. In Venezuela coche is used as not-so-polite slang for pigs, another mode of transport you wouldn’t want to tell people you arrived in for your meetings, for example.

Speaking of modes of transportation, another potentially complicated word is guagua, which means bus in Caribbean countries such as Cuba. In Chile and other Southern Cone countries, however, guagua means baby.

Another place where words are commonly freely borrowed between regions but with vastly different meanings is in the context of food. For example, the word plátano refers to the firm plantain fruit, which is banana like but served more commonly in savory dishes in most Central American countries, and banana’s are referred to as bananas. In Chile however, plátano just means banana, perhaps because plantains are not commonly found in that region. To track down an actual plantain in Chile would require more explanation, such as asking for the harder, more savory ‘banana’.

When ordering at a restaurant, you could be in for quite a surprise if you try and order a torta, in Mexico you would receive a sandwich, while in Argentina you would receive a cake. Caña is another problematic word, which could mean sugarcane (yum!) or fishing rod, but in Chile to be with caña means to have a hangover (yuck!).

This can be difficult to navigate when attempting to translate documents, as even someone who is fully fluent at a native level in Spanish could easily not be aware of regional differences such as these. Using the wrong word in a professional translation has the potential to be incredibly embarrassing at best, and offensive at worst.

The Importance of Spanish Language Translation and Copy Writing Professionals

As you can see, there are many potential pitfalls to consider when trying to construct a cohesive message meant to be understood across many countries, even if they are all in one region such as Latin America. For this reason (among others) it is important to seek out Spanish language translation and copy writing professionals.

Only Spanish language experts will have the training and knowledge to guarantee your message will be understood in a clear and concise manner by the intended target audience. All of the Spanish language translators and copy writing professionals at Spanish with Style are highly trained individuals, and able to readily identify and avoid pitfalls such as words that could have an inaccurate meanings. In fact, the Spanish with Style staff hails from many different regions, thus guaranteeing your translations will have a local feel to them, and that your message is relatable.

Tú and Usted: Respecting the Boundaries

Tú and Usted Respecting the Boundaries

Tú and Usted: Respecting the Boundaries

Translating documents from English to Spanish in this day and age of globalization is essential for many businesses. It can be tempting to attempt these translations on your own, especially if you or someone you know has a reasonable grasp of the Spanish language. Translations, however, are best left to the Spanish language experts to ensure accuracy. There are several subtle differences between English and Spanish that can be troublesome for those not trained in Spanish language translation and copy editing. For example, something as seemingly simple as ascertaining the correct way to address others. In other words, the word ‘you; and the associated verb conjugations.

In English, whether we are addressing someone very formal such as a head of state or a university professor, or if we are addressing small children or our employees, we conjugate verbs with ‘you’. The rest of the sentence may have varying formalities, but overall, when addressing others, we use ‘you’ across the board.

The Spanish language on the other hand, makes use of two very different conjugations when addressing others: and usted. Depending on who your intended audience is, you have to select carefully. Simply put, is less formal and usted is more formal. But how do we know when we should use which?

Here are some of the considerations that should be taken into account when deciding if you will use or usted to address someone:

  • Showing Respect in the Spanish Language
  • Maintaining Hierarchical Boundaries in Spanish Culture
  • How Spanish Speakers Relate to Different Age Groups
  • Intimacy and Friendship among Spanish Speakers

Showing Respect in the Spanish Language

Showing appropriate respect to others is important to Spanish speakers, as it is to speakers of many other languages. One of the methods Spanish speakers employ to show such respect is in the appropriate use of the usted form of verbs. When deciding whether to use the form or the usted form, it is important to consider if the person you are addressing is in a position that generally commands a high level of respect.

How Spanish Speakers Relate to Different Age Groups

Another aspect to take into consideration when deciding to use or usted is the age of the person you are addressing. A good general rule of thumb is to use for those who are younger than you and usted for those who are older.

Maintaining Hierarchical Boundaries in Spanish Culture

Maintaining appropriate hierarchical boundaries is another instance when it is important to pay close attention to the appropriate usage of and usted. For example, typically in structured corporate environments you would refer to those in higher positions as usted and those in lower positions as tú.

Intimacy and Friendship among Spanish Speakers

As relationships between Spanish speakers develop and a certain level of closeness, or intimacy is achieved, it may be possible to transition from referring to someone as usted, and begin using the more informal tú.

As we can see, it is easy to make mistakes, and as such it is incredibly important to rely on professional translation and copy editing services such as Spanish with Style for your translation needs. With such a culturally nuanced approach to something as seemingly simple as ‘you’ and the subsequent verb conjugations, undertaking your own translations can be risky. Allowing a highly trained Spanish language expert to translate your documents, you can be sure that your message is being communicated accurately and effectively to the intended audience.