There are more than 470 million native Spanish-speakers around the world, and nearly another 90 million who speak it as a second language. Spanish, as a language, however, is not monolithic. There are many different regional dialects. So if you are going to localize into one or more variants of Spanish, which should you choose? Gamasutra recently republished a great discussion on the topic that was originally put out by Localize Direct. But first, let’s look at the context of the global market.
In terms of raw population, Mexico is the single-biggest population of Spanish-speakers, with over 120 million speakers. Columbia is next, with 48 million, and only then Spain itself, with around 47 million, Argentinia with 42 million, and then the United States, with 41 million. (2015 figures as per Instituto Cervantes; the 2010 Census cited 37 million speakers.)
Looking closer at population numbers, if you include bilingual individuals, the United States has more Spanish-speakers than any nation apart from Mexico. However, U.S. Spanish dialects can differ widely, from Mexican to Puerto Rican to Cuban to any of the other Central or South American variants, plus European Spanish-Americans.
As a decision-maker, then, you have to consider many factors in deciding the Spanish dialect (or dialects) you implement in your project. Is it for the U.S. market? Are you primarily catering to a regional market (Central or South America, or the EU)? Or is it for global distribution?
Bungie’s Halo 2, for instance, used a Latin American dialect that didn’t go over well in Spain. While the 2004 press release hailed it at the time as a welcome feature, the Castilian Spanish community responded with negative feedback including an online petition. The 2004 release was the only game in the series to ever lapse in that regard; and the same pain-point resurfaced with criticism at the 2014 anniversary “Master Chief Collection” release.
How different is different? Enough for it to irk the casual player. Nouns (and their related adjectives) matter quite a bit. So do you call it granada fragmentaria or granada de fragmentación? One would go over seamlessly with Mexican translator Manuel Gordillo Gonzalez. The other would set him on edge.
Verbs also diverged regionally and idiomatically, so that you’d want to use coger, “to grab,” in Spain, but the same verb would mean “to have sex with” in Argentina. Not something you want to find out the hard way by having people giggle and post memes on the Internet! Even pronouns are regional, such as the familiar tú in much of the Latin American world, but using vos (voseo) instead in some nations, and even usted (normally used for formal tone) in others.
Have a gander at the full article over at Gamasutra, and then let us know: how do you make decisions on localization in Spanish? What are your thoughts on how it should be best handled? If you have an upcoming project, and have some thoughts or questions as to what would work best for you, write to us at [email protected].
Speaking of Spanish translation in Halo, here’s probably the most famous Spanish-speaking character known to the franchise: Lopez la Pesado from Rooster Teeth’s long-running series Red vs. Blue. Enjoy!