Which variety of Spanish should you use for your translation project?
Updated: Jan 7
This is the $64,000 question. And the answer is not as easy as it may sound – it all depends on your audience.
“Know your audience,” reads the old marketing adage. Who do you have in mind when you think of promoting your products and services? Are you thinking of Spanish speakers living in the United States or in Latin America (or even Spain!)?
Even within the United States you will find a variety of national groups. Mexican Spanish is king all over the Southwestern US as well as in Chicagoland. Cuban Spanish dominates Florida, and speakers of Puerto Rican and Dominican Spanish rule the landscape in New York, New Jersey, and throughout New England. And let’s not forget the significant number of Central Americans in Los Angeles and Washington DC (2.3 and 1.5 million from El Salvador and Guatemala, respectively (*).
The type and function of your content is another factor to consider. Marketing copy often includes puns, idioms, slang, humor, and even rhymes! Medical forms may seem straightforward and yet word choice is extremely important to facilitate comprehension. User research carried out by Maximus’ Center for Health Literacy showed that a significant number of Spanish-speaking Medicaid beneficiaries had difficulty understanding the word “prima”, a common and widely accepted Spanish translation for “insurance premium.” The issue is that the word “prima” also means “cousin” - an every-day word that dwells in people’s minds much more than insurance lingo!