Communicating with the Masses: The Case for Neutral Spanish

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The Spanish language is quickly becoming one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. There are an estimated 470 million native Spanish speakers on the planet today. The Spanish speaking community is incredibly diverse, spanning the majority of South and Central America as well as Europe, the United States, and even the Philippines. Within these Spanish speaking countries exists even smaller pockets of Spanish speaking communities with their own local accents, idioms, expressions, and cultures. As we have seen, this results in an incredibly culturally and linguistically diverse group of speakers, and it can seem like a daunting task to create a message meant to be understood by all.

We’ve previously discussed how important it is to tailor your message to your target audience’s geographic location, but what if you want to be sure your message is understood by as many Spanish speakers in as many locations as possible?

It is becoming more and more common for businesses to request translations in what is commonly referred to as ‘neutral’ or ‘international’ Spanish instead of multiple translations of the same text into regional dialects.

In this post we will discuss the following key points:

  • What is Neutral Spanish Translation? : Properly trained Spanish language experts know how to choose wording appropriate for all audiences.
  • The Importance of Neutral Spanish in Translated Texts: When tailoring your message to suit a broader audience is beneficial.
  • Hiring a Professional for Guaranteed Neutral Translations: To guarantee your text will be understood by members of many Spanish speaking communities, it becomes even more important to hire a Spanish language professional.

What is Neutral Spanish Translation?

There is no officially mandated or necessarily agreed upon ‘neutral’ or ‘international’ Spanish language per se, but rather more of a generally accepted style of communication aimed at reaching the widest audience possible. Just because there is no officially mandated version of this particular style of Spanish doesn’t mean there aren’t concrete examples of it. With the rise of readily available international media, the Spanish language community as a whole has worked to create a mutually intelligible version of Spanish movies, TV shows, telenovelas, news sources and social media so as to reach a large and diverse Spanish speaking audience. For neutral Spanish, simplicity is key. Neutral Spanish employs the simplest vocabulary and aims to communicate to the widest range of people as clearly as possible. This method of communicating in Spanish takes into account the various ways in which certain verbs and vocabulary are used differently across speakers and employs the simplest, most recognizable forms available.

An example of this in action is the word ‘car’. A Spanish language translation expert would see that the word ‘car’ could be translated multiple ways, carro, coche or auto. All of these words can technically translate to mean car, and a software-based translation service would probably tell you that in fact, they all do mean car. However, our highly trained Spanish with Style team would know that the appropriate, most widely understood translation for car would be auto. Even in countries that don’t use the word auto colloquially would understand it to mean car. By contrast the word coche actually refers to a baby carriage in Chile. The same goes for certain words that could have a perfectly innocuous meaning for one Spanish speaking community, but come off as impolite or even offensive for another.

The Importance of Neutral Spanish in Translated Texts

The Spanish language is not only on the rise internationally, but in the United States as well, which is surprising to some as the United States does not count Spanish as an official language. Spanish speakers in the United States often come from families who have immigrated there recently, and as such the very nature of the Spanish speaking community in the United States means that it includes speakers from all over the globe. Native Spanish speakers from the United States can be from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua or Argentina, making it the most diverse community of Spanish speakers living in one geographical area. On an international scale, 21 countries worldwide count Spanish as their official language and many more are still host to large numbers of Spanish speakers that do not have Spanish as one of their official languages.

While tailoring your message to a specific geographical target audience can have its advantages, if your goal is international in nature it can become expensive and cumbersome to create a new translation for each Spanish speaking target audience you wish to reach. This is something software developers figured out a long time ago. Can you imagine 21 different country specific versions of Spanish Microsoft Office, for example?

Neutral Spanish becomes even more important when attempting to communicate with the diverse group of Hispanics that currently live in the United States. As we previously pointed out, the American-Hispanic population hails from far and wide. To ensure your materials are properly translated as neutrally as possible, using a professional Spanish translation and copy editing service is imperative. Our team at Spanish with Style is well versed in not only regionally specific Spanish, but are also experts in ensuring your text is widely accessible and presented in Spanish that is as neutral as possible.

Hiring a Professional for Guaranteed Neutral Translations:

Because there is no official standardized neutral Spanish, it is even more important to leave the task of translation up to the Spanish language experts. There is no ‘Neutral-Spanish’ dictionary so you must rely on Spanish language and translation professionals to select the simplest, most widely understood vocabulary and to construct clear and concise phrases void of geographically specific idioms. Our Spanish translation and copy editing professionals are trained to know which words are more widely understood than others, and if a certain expression or idiom is appropriate for the wider Spanish speaking audience.

Our Spanish with Style team is comprised of a highly trained staff with a wealth of experience translating texts both for specific geographical locations and for broad, international Spanish speaking audiences. Trusting professional Spanish language experts is the only way to guarantee your message is translated in a cohesive, clear and widely understood manner.