5 Factors to Remember in Translation from English to Spanish for Global Companies

September 15, 2023
Post feature
English to Spanish translation is a core part of the localization process when you are looking to grow your business into Spanish-speaking markets.
Depending on your chosen markets, you will need to consider which specific Spanish variants you are targeting, what types of content you are localizing and various other factors.
With an estimated 543 million speakers worldwide, Spanish is more than just a language. It is a key to opening the door to a huge range of diverse markets.
Here are 5 key factors that are important to remember when translating your content into Spanish...

1. Choosing the right Spanish language variant

There are at least 29 different variants of Spanish, each with its own ISO language code. Different variants are spoken in Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and so on. Each market will have different idioms, customs, and conventions that your localized content may need to conform to.
Sometimes, it is possible to reach multiple Spanish-speaking markets with the same translations, such as when using "Universal Spanish" or "Latin American Spanish." However, the suitability of this blanket approach will depend on the type of content you are creating and your target audience. With marketing communications, for example, it might be unwise to use a standardized version of Spanish that is devoid of colloquial expressions as it may alienate your intended audience.
Whether you are translating from English to Spanish for one market or for several, a strategic approach to translation is paramount.
Inline image

2. Understanding the difference between formal vs informal Spanish

One factor that is important to distinguish in Spanish translations is the difference between formal and informal language. Business communication often uses a more formal tone but there are plenty of occasions where localized content should be more informal.
Advertising and marketing is one example where choosing the right formality can vastly improve the effectiveness of the content.
For example, adverts targeting business executives or senior citizens usually use a more formal Spanish (typified by the "usted" pronoun) out of respect and formality. It is also the common formality used in adverts for financial assistance products.
On the flip side, public service announcements often use the "tú" pronoun to cultivate a sense of camaraderie and belonging. This informal tone is also used in marketing targeting youth, students, families, and other groups that use a more casual level of address.
Consider your target audience and advise your localization provider whether content should use the formal or informal case.

3. Taking account of the expansion factor in translations from English to Spanish

When translating from English to Spanish, it's important to take the "expansion factor" into account. This refers to the extra space that written text will take up when it is translated into another language.
According to the IBM text expansion guidelines, Spanish text can take up between 130-300% more space than the same text in English.
The expansion of a particular text will also vary depending on the overall length of the text. A text containing 10 characters – such as a user interface button – can expand to between 20-30 characters, a 200-300% expansion. A longer paragraph of text might only expand by 130%.
It's important to consider this text expansion factor when designing page layouts and user interface elements.

4. Consider the cultural differences between your Spanish-speaking markets

Sometimes, it's advisable not to translate a particular piece of content from English. Usually, this is because the source content is not strategically necessary in the target market. For example, maybe your industry functions differently in Columbia than it does in the United States. It would be a waste of resources to translate content that won't be used.
A simple example could be local holidays. In Mexico, for example, one of the biggest festivals is El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). This is also celebrated in some parts of the United States. But it would be unnecessary to translate a piece of content about this holiday into European Spanish because the holiday isn't celebrated in Spain.
Other differences that may affect your English to Spanish translation include:
  • How sales and marketing are done in the Spanish-speaking market.
  • The revenue importance and strategic direction in the market.
  • The types and purpose of the content that you are translating from English.
Inline image

5. Don't forget the regulations for your translated Spanish content

Legal requirements vary between markets and industries. It's important to take these laws into account when you are translating because not all translation providers will handle them for you.
Examples of legal frameworks that you may need to adhere to include:
  • Advertising and marketing regulations. For example, the International Trade Administration includes a section on requirements for eCommerce for each global market, such as this example for the Mexican market.
  • Data privacy regulations. These may affect some of your content and will vary between markets. For example, content in Spain may be influenced by the GDPR laws in the European Union.
  • Industry-specific regulations. Each industry will probably have a different set of requirements that may vary between your Spanish-speaking markets. This is where it can be especially helpful to work with a localization provider that has specific expertise in your industry.
These are just five examples of important (but often non-obvious) factors to consider when you are translating from English to Spanish to expand into new markets.
How can you ensure that you are taking such factors into account?
A good place to start is to use the right Spanish translation services. You should look for a provider that helps you choose the right translations for the right context, and can ensure your content is localization-ready.
With the right partner, you can focus your effort on growing your business and serving your customers in your Spanish-speaking markets.