With 450 million native speakers worldwide, Spanish is the second most spoken language after Mandarin Chinese. Starting with the Discovery of America in 1492, European (Castillian) Spanish was exported not only to the Americas but also to territories in Africa, Oceania and the Philippines.
With 41 million native Spanish speakers and 12 million bilingual Spanish speakers, the US is actually the second largest Spanish speaking country in the world, even ahead of Spain itself.
Spanish is the official language in most of South and Central America. (link – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_where_Spanish_is_an_official_language#United_States)
Differences and similarities
The main differences between European and American Spanish revolve around terminology and form of address. As happens with other languages with several variants, the more colloquial, the more differences you’ll find. In terms of terminology, US Spanish, Central and South American Spanish has been significantly influenced by US English. A computer for example is ordenador in Spain, computador in Chile and Columbia and computadora in the rest of Latin America.
For certain types of text, like newsletters, it can also be important to address the reader or potential client in an appropriate way. Appropriate in this case means formal or informal. Like other languages, Spanish uses the formal Usted addressing an older person, a stranger or a superior and the informal tú for friends, relatives or a child. While in Spain the tendency is towards the informal approach in all cases, in some South American countries this is not the case. To make things even more complicated, in Argentina and Uruguay the tú has been replaced by vos completely. And this also affects the verb form (conjugation).
Translate, transcreate or localize?
If it is enough to be simply understood, European Spanish works for all countries. However, all countries but Spain would find terms or expressions that do not sound 100% familiar. Additionally, there has always been some kind of resentment towards the European “conquerors”.
Depending on the countries targeted, we recommend distinguishing at least between three areas for Central and South America and to localize ie adapt the European Spanish for those areas. Or, of course, translate for one of those groups and then localize for another or both if European Spanish is not required.
The three groups are:
- Mexico, US-Spanish
- Argentina, Uruguay
- Rest of Latin American countries.
If no specific country or area is being targeted, our recommendation would be to go for option 3.
For any online content subject to SEO efforts, an additional multilingual SEO research step is highly recommended as keyword search volumes will vary depending on each country.