There’s Spanish and then there’s Spanish

Have you ever considered the difference between the Spanish that is spoken in Spain and the Spanish spoken in Mexico? Customers often ask us how the many versions of Spanish differ, and which version we’d recommend for their translation. The answer is “it depends”.


Spanish – a Roman language descendent from Latin – is one of the most spoken languages in the world. Just like English, it crossed the Atlantic from Europe during the colonisation of the Americas, from the late 1400s onwards. Today, Spanish is the official language in a range of countries, including Spain, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia. To ensure the continued unity of Spanish in spite of its geographic spread, a Spanish language academy – the Real Academia Española or RAE – was founded in 1713. The Academy still promotes Spanish. It is made up of no less than 22 Spanish-speaking countries, which together take measures like publishing an official Spanish dictionary.


In spite of this RAE cooperation, however, Spanish looks different and is used in different ways in different countries – just like the English that is spoken in the US is not the same as English in the UK or Australia. There are differences in the pronunciation, grammar and even vocabulary of different versions of Spanish. Loan words or words for contemporary phenomena in particular are not always the same: “computer”, for example, is called “ordenador” in Spain, but “computador/computadora” in Latin America.


Grammar has also evolved in different directions. These days, Spain is the only Spanish-speaking country that still uses the pronoun “vosotros/vosotras” for the plural “you”. In Spain, it is used to address one’s friends in an informal way. When speaking with a group of people in a more formal context, however, Spaniards say “ustedes”. In Latin America on the other hand, “ustedes” is used in all contexts, both informal and formal.


To be able to translate words like this correctly and pick the right version of Spanish, we always ask our clients to tell us as much as possible about their target audience when they order a translation. We usually translate into European or Mexican Spanish. If a text is meant for both the European and Latin American market, we translate it into both versions. All to make sure your message reaches its audience in the best possible way!