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Spanish translations for a multilingual Switzerland 

Woman dancing flamenco in traditional clothing

This year, Switzerland’s largest daily newspaper also started being published in Spanish. There is a good reason for this: around 86,000 Spaniards currently live in Switzerland. If you include those with dual citizenship, this figure rises to 130,000.

So how did this number get to be so considerable? What distinguishes the Spanish-speaking community in Switzerland? And where can you find the best Spanish translations?

Spanish immigrants in Switzerland

A veritable throng of immigrants came to Switzerland during the 60s and 70s, most from the heavily deprived regions of north-western and western Spain: Galicia, Castilia and Andalusia. Alongside Italy and Portugal, Spain was another country from which many people left for Switzerland in search of stability and a better economic situation.

In 1936, a civil war that would last almost three years broke out in Spain and marked the onset of the Franco dictatorship, which would not end until Franco’s death in 1975. In 1961, the Swiss Confederation signed a migration agreement with Spain. Owing to the difficult financial situation and spurred on by this agreement, many Spanish citizens left their homeland and thereby became able to send money (remittances) back to their family members back home.

They found work in Switzerland, chiefly in construction, industry, cleaning and catering. Many originally planned to stay in Switzerland until the tough times in Spain were over and use the time to work and save up some money. But, as you may already have guessed, months turned into years and migrant workers became Swiss citizens with children and grandchildren. The one permanent fixture in their life became the need to strike a balance between these two very different cultures.

Between two cultures

Spanish tapas and sangria on wooden table top view

Today, many second- and third-generation Spaniards live in Switzerland. Although many of them hold dual citizenship, they feel truly at home in Switzerland, the country of their birth. The same could not quite be said of the first generation, who still feel strong ties to their Spanish homeland. Some of them even move back to Spain when they retire.

However, after so many years abroad, people can sometimes feel like a foreigner even in their former home country. Spanish and Swiss culture are nonetheless very different. Spaniards are known for their outspoken and fun-loving lifestyles, in contrast to the rather reserved and organised Swiss. As is well-known, however, cultural differences do not have to constitute a barrier to harmonious cohabitation. To help grease the wheels of communication a little, here are a few Spanish expressions for you to learn:

Hello¡Buenos días!
How are you?¿Qué tal?
My name is…Me llamo…
I come from Switzerland.Soy de Suiza
I am learning Spanish.Estoy aprendiendo español
I don’t understand.No comprendo
Where are the toilets?¿Dónde está el baño?
How much is…?¿Cuánto es…?
The bill, please.¡La cuenta, por favor!
See you next time!¡Hasta la próxima!
Thank youGracias

Spanish as a global language

Spanish is a Romance language and forms part of the Indo-Germanic language family. Like many other European languages, Spanish has spread around the world thanks to sea travel and colonisation. Today, Spanish is the official language of 21 countries and is currently in 4th position in the ranks of the most widely spoken languages in the world. It has also become a very commonplace language in the USA, where an estimated 13% of the population speaks Spanish. But, as you may imagine, Spanish is not always the same wherever you go.

Spain and Latin America – the rain in Spain is mainly not the same

The Spanish spoken in Spain is often referred to as ‘castellano’ (Castilian); this is the most widely spoken variation of the language in the country.

Latin America is a vast region and takes its name from the origin of the Romance languages: Latin. Alongside other European languages such as Portuguese and French, as well as certain indigenous languages, like Quechua in Peru, Spanish continues to be the principal language of many countries.

Anyone familiar with the Spanish language can quickly tell from which area a Spanish accent comes.

One key feature is the use of the personal pronouns ‘tú’ and ‘vos’. ‘Vos’ was originally used as the polite form of the 2nd person singular.

In Spain, however, it has since been replaced by the informal ‘tú’. In Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, on the other hand, ‘vos’ continues to be used. In these countries, people still say ‘¿De dónde sos?’, instead of the ‘¿De dónde eres?’ used in Spain, to ask someone where they are from.

The same applies to ‘vosotros’ (you plural, informal) and ‘ustedes’ (you plural, formal). Latin Americans prefer the polite variant here too. Interestingly, ‘ustedes’ is also used in the Canary Islands, a group of islands belonging to Spain.

In addition to these key features, there are also plenty of differences in vocabulary. Here are a few examples:

 Spanish (Spain)Spanish (Latin America)
Mobile phoneEl móvilEl celular
ComputerEl ordenadorLa computadora / El computador
SpectaclesLas gafasLos anteojos
CarEl cocheEl carro
To driveconducirmanejar
ApartmentEl pisoEl apartamento

These linguistic differences are vitally important when translating, and can be decisive in determining whether your Spanish translation hits the right tone or not.

Spanish translations – hitting the right tone

With a language as diverse and complex as Spanish, it is worth investing in a professional language services provider. Your Spanish translations need to be tailored to their target audience and to local peculiarities. Only then will you strike the right tone and be sure that your message will come across.

In other words, you should choose an ISO-certified language partner like SwissGlobal. You can rely on our certified quality and rest assured that your Spanish translations will be carried out by specialised translators working into their mother tongue.

Contact us now for a no-obligation quote for your specialised Spanish translation.