Neutral Spanish is also known as ‘international’ or ‘standard’ Spanish.
Most people who are not involved in the world of linguistics and languages, and specifically in translating into Spanish, would not be aware of what is commonly known in the translation industry as ‘neutral Spanish’. Neutral Spanish is also known as ‘international’ or ‘standard’ Spanish. Obviously Spanish people don’t intend for their Spanish to be so different from the Spanish spoken in Argentina or Mexico, but certain words are used in one area and not in another, and these variants do have a different accent. But generally, there is no real awareness of how different variants of Spanish can be, plus it’s very surprising when you see the similarities in many colloquialisms.
Translating Using Neutral or Standard Spanish
When a client approaches a language services company requiring a document to be translated into Spanish, independent of the format, it’s assumed that an experienced salesperson or translator will ask what the target language is for the text. The client may want their document directed towards a market in a specific country, and very often it may be required for people who speak Spanish. It’s in these situations where the so-called ‘standard’ or ‘neutral’ Spanish comes into play.
The idea with neutral Spanish translation is that, generally, it can be used in most cases without fear of Spanish speakers not fully understanding the text. However, the problem arises when the translator is presented with literary or advertising text which refers to cultural references of the country concerned, or perhaps the terminology offered is used in common life. If we are translating a children’s story, for example, and are discussing a particular game, each country has its own way of describing it. So what name should a translator use to discuss something as ubiquitous and simple as a childhood game that most of us grew up playing? Are we speaking of anyone at all who speaks Spanish and, depending on the country, does it have a negative or positive connotation?
Perhaps in the case of a marketing advertisement, it might contain a certain metaphor or set of words that would only make sense in a specific country due to a particular socio-cultural context? It’s in these cases that the translator is required to be very knowledgeable, in addition to being creative, in order to reflect the original idea as much as possible and to communicate the message in precisely the same way to anyone who reads it in Spanish – regardless of their country of origin.
Communication with the Client Is Key
Certainly there will be times when it’s not possible to make one specific choice, and in these cases it’s always wise to communicate with the client to determine which Spanish translation is needed for the final product.
Fortunately, in most cases it comes down to a question of naturalness, more so than understanding. Sometimes, just through having a wealth of experience, a translator will understand what is required. For example, in Spain the translation of cell phone is móvil, but in most Spanish-speaking countries it’s known as a celular. Therefore, it’s more standard to use celular, and even though a person from Spain understands exactly what it means, the text would still feel weird to them.
Translation customers should make themselves aware of these issues because they’re of great importance when it comes to maximizing their scope of action, plus they’re important to the market they’re trying to reach.
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