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English-to-Spanish translation: Erstwhile rivals

Over 400 years ago, England inflicted such a crushing defeat upon Spain that the once-proud colonial power never fully recovered. Nevertheless, Spanish is still one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, making English-to-Spanish translations pretty much a must for internationally active companies.

Spanish is a Romance language with Latin roots, while English developed from several West Germanic languages, which were further influenced by Norman French in the 11th century. As a result, there are both great differences and many similarities between English and Spanish, which can cause headaches for even the most professional of linguists when it comes to an English-to-Spanish translation. Unsurprisingly, the list of “false friends” is lengthy.

From maritime power to colonial power

The Spanish language reached its zenith in the 15th century, when Spain emerged as a maritime power and thus also a world power – competing with Portugal and later with England. After the English fleet devastatingly defeated the Spanish Armada in a naval battle in the English Channel in 1588, Spain’s power began to decline gradually. Spain lost its colonies one after another, particularly those in Latin America, the Philippines and Africa. The Spanish language, however, never lost its strength.

Today, there are 471 million people with Spanish as their mother tongue, and it is the second most widely spoken native language in the world after Mandarin. Spanish is not only the official language in 22 countries, but according to estimates it will also be the native language of 30% of the US population by 2050. There are already more Spanish speakers living in the USA than in Spain itself. Any company that is thinking of getting a foothold in the States needs to consider an English-to-Spanish translation for their content.

Spain and Latin America are not the same thing

Not all Spanish is the same. Each country that was once colonised by Spain went on to develop its own local characteristics. The linguistic variants in Latin America, in particular, differ significantly from European Spanish. The differences are not limited to vocabulary; they also include forms of address and the use of verb tenses. If you’re planning an English-to-Spanish translation for your texts, it’s essential that you let your translation partner know which country your translation is intended for.

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