Thinking about one single Spanish won´t give you a suitable eBook translation

Spanish is the primary language of 20 countries and is spoken by over 406 million people in the planet. Because of that, there are many different Spanish dialects, and not taking these variations into consideration when translating your eBook, may result in a big headache for you.

Many words have very diverse meanings in different countries in Latin America:

  • The word that is used to designate a baby diaper in some regions of Cuba is a terrible insult in Mexico, yet in the drug dealing slang, that same word is used to describe a very specific type of criminal.
  • The word originally used for a kitchen assistant in Spain, constitutes an insult in most Latin America.
  • When you are talking about computers, people in Spain will say “ordenador,” while people in Latin America will say “computadora.” When you talk about a file, you will hear “fichero” in Spain and “archivo” in Mexico.
  • If you want a cigarette and politely ask for a “pitillo” in many countries of Latin America, people will look funny at you and you probably won’t get anything at all.

The examples are endless and will always produce funny or awkward situations.

Using the wrong term in the wrong country will only give you a blank stare, if not an offended person, although you may think you are speaking “Spanish.”

Some other common words have to be used carefully always, as the playful nature of the Latino makes them find a double meaning in many sentences. Yet, this way of thinking may seem totally strange for someone who didn’t grow up in this culture.

The regular Spanish spoken in Argentina can be very different from the Mexican equivalent and that is the reason why many global companies create different Spanish versions for all their products. Disney, for example, has been creating at least two different versions of their movies for decades now. I remember buying “The Incredibles” in Spanish: you could listen to it in Mexican Spanish, in Argentinean Spanish and in Neutral Latin American Spanish. We all had a wonderful time listening to the Mexican version, but laughed like crazy when we watched the Argentinean version. I imagine people in Argentina do the same when they listen to the Mexican version. The Neutral Latin American Spanish version was beautiful, since it was perfectly understandable for all countries and featured neutral accents in all the voices.

On the other hand, listening to Darth Vader tell Luke Skywalker that he was his father, in a Spaniard Spanish, was probably one of the worst experiences in my life and totally ruined the movie for me.

So, when you choose a translator for your literary work, I would give you the following advices, based on my experience:

  • Don’t choose someone who “studied Spanish at College and got great notes at it” if they are not natives of a Spanish speaking country. They probably won´t know the subtleties of the language and will give you a mediocre or boring product.
  • If you have a specific country in mind, pick someone who was born and/or spent a long time in that particular country. I have turned down clients who wanted a Venezuelan translation because, although I can produce a Neutral Latin American Translation, I am not an expert on the Spanish spoken at Venezuela. Keep in mind too that the Spanish spoken in Spain is incredibly different from anything spoken in America.
  • If you don´t have a particular market in mind, choose someone who can produce a Neutral Latin American version.
  • Translators are specialized professionals: if you have a literary work, do not select a legal, medical or in general, a non literary translator.

You have spent countless hours crafting your story and painstakingly selecting every word in English. Do not sacrifice the quality of your book and your name in a casual selection for a translator. Go for the gold!

Read some other tips that we have given on the past about translating your eBook into Spanish here.

  Our mission is to help English writing authors reach new markets in other languages. If you have an eBook in English we can help you reach the Latino community, translating your work to Spanish. Contact us at http://www.publicatuebook.ca or at joe@publicatuebook.ca