5 Linguistic Differences Across Spanish-Speaking Regions

When translating your content into Spanish, it’s essential to account for linguistic variances across different Spanish-speaking regions. The meaning of a Spanish word in Spain, for example, could vary drastically from its meaning in Argentina.

Failure to account for regional language differences could yield errors and inaccuracies in your content, which negatively impact your brand’s credibility. As Spanish comes in different flavors, here are some examples of Spanish words and phrases that vary in meaning across regions.

1. The word chabacano
In Mexico, the chabacano simply means apricot—the delicious fruit. But in Spain, the word is an adjective, used to describe someone who is vulgar. It’s easy to see how neglecting to localize for the specific target country could create an uncomfortable mixup.

2. The word guagua
In Chile, guagua refers to a baby. In Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, it refers to a bus. Avoid insulting your audience by equating their baby to a bus with targeted localization.

3. Units of measurement
In Mexican Spanish, the metric system is used. Meanwhile, the U.S. Spanish-speaking market is accustomed to the imperial system. Referencing the wrong system in your content is likely to give your audience pause, and may lead them to question your authority.

4. Pronoun usage
While Spain favors vosotros for addressing groups of familiar people, Latin American Spanish speakers use ustedes. It is crucial to nail this distinction, lest your audience conclude your content is not intended for them.

5. The word chucho
In Salvador or Guatemala, chucho refers to a small dog. In Honduras, it means “stingy”. In Argentina, the word describes cold weather; in Mexico, it’s an adjective meaning “skillful”; in Chile, chucho means “jail”. In some other Spanish-speaking countries, it is a word used to address someone named “Jesús”. These many meanings emphasize the importance of translating with your specific region in mind.

At e2f, we can help you determine the appropriate variant for your Spanish translation, based on your specific needs and goals. Our professional linguists (and native speakers) are trained to ensure your translation accurately encompasses all the nuances of your selected dialect. Contact us today to get the ball rolling on your international expansion.