When creating advertising campaigns, website content, or other materials geared toward a diverse Hispanic audience, companies are wise to consider the use of neutral Spanish (sometimes known as international Spanish). Translators and writers employing neutral Spanish seek to produce a text that is universally understood by Spanish speakers by avoiding regionalisms and colloquial language that hint at a particular dialect.
Multinational corporations with employees spread across the globe benefit from the use of neutral Spanish when translating manuals and corporate communications, as translation costs can be contained by producing one broadly understood text rather than translating into various dialects of Spanish. The same holds true forU.S.companies employing a significant number of Hispanic workers, who most likely hail from different parts of the Spanish-speaking world.
Conversely, it’s often desirable to target the text to a specific group of Spanish speakers. For example, if a company launches a product in Latin America, consumers will identify more closely with the product and the campaign if an effort is made to tailor the copy to reflect idioms and vocabulary employed in theAmericasrather than inSpain.
Challenges Inherent to Selecting Neutral Terms
While producing a text in neutral Spanish may sound simple, the fact is that identifying neutral terms is quite challenging. The Spanish language is rich with variants, and a true neutral Spanish does not exist in the real world (think Received Pronunciation in the U.K.or Standard American English in the U.S.). As such, translators may encounter difficulties when trying to determine the appropriate term to use when the target audience is a group as diverse as U.S. Hispanics or Spanish speakers worldwide. For instance, the word “car” can be translated as carro, auto, automóvil, or coche. Which term is the most neutral (i.e. widely understood)?
It’s important to learn as much as possible about the text’s target audience before beginning the translation. If possible, try to determine which region or country most of the Hispanics in your target audience come from (e.g.Spain, the Caribbean,South America). For example, if you’re translating a text to be used in the court system of the State ofCalifornia, that state’s Latino population consists largely of Mexicans or those of Mexican descent, so you may want to favor Mexican vocabulary if you’re undecided about the best term to use.
Search Tips for Neutral Spanish Terms
The key to translating a text to neutral Spanish is selecting the vocabulary that will be most widely understood by Spanish speakers, regardless of their background.
1. Consult several dictionaries to determine all possible translations of a term. Resources such as the DRAE and Jergas de Habla Hispana are particularly useful for identifying the countries or regions where a particular term is utilized.
2. Perform a search for the term you think is the most neutral in the Spanish language version of Google (click on the option at left that says “Buscar sólo páginas en español” to ensure that any stray English language results are removed).
3. Compare search results for different terms and see which one has more hits.
Selecting Terms to Target a Specific Group of Spanish Speakers
If most of your target population come from a particular country, then search for terms in the version of Google specific to that country. For example, in the case of Argentina, search at google.com.ar. Click here for a list of all the countries with specific Google sites.
Excluding Countries from Your Search
When translating for a particular country or region, you may want to remove certain results from your search. For example, if you’re targeting Latin America, you will want to search in the Spanish language version of Google without seeing results from Spain. To remove results from a specific country, type your search term and then site:-.xx, where xx represents the country’s domain extension (.es forSpain, .ar for Argentina, etc.).