Category Archives: Spanish parameters

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.

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.