So you’re planning on learning Spanish, or you’ve taken a job in marketing that requires you to supervise the translation of your company’s website from English to Spanish.
Are you up to the task?
One thing’s for sure, Spanish will put you in touch with a whole lot of people in the US—not to mention Latin America and Spain.
According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the US now has more Spanish speakers than both Spain and Colombia.
There are 41 million native Spanish speakers and 11 million bilingual Spanish speakers in the US today.
Only Mexico has more at 121 million.
So you’ve decided now’s the time to get a better handle on the Spanish language?
Well, get ready to sweat a lot whether it’s in a classroom or supervising the work you send to a translation agency.
Spanish is way, way more complicated grammatically than English.
Verbs, verbs, and more verbs
You thought Chinese was difficult?
According to Wikipedia, Spanish has fourteen regular verb tenses which can be subdivided into seven simple and seven compound tenses.
(A student of mine once told me she had a lot harder time learning Spanish than Japanese.)
So if you’re supervising say the translation of your website, hire a Spanish expert who knows what they’re doing.
Because you won’t have a clue on how to catch Spanish grammar errors that could make your brand look bad in the eyes of your Spanish audience
And if you’re planning on speaking Spanish, get ready for a lot of memorization. A lot.
And how long will it take?
The following advice posted on the web from a foreigner living in Mexico is about right:
“For the rest of my life and then some. jajaja.”
“It is a never ending process. I am just glad to be conversational, but being fluent is a bar too high for me to ever achieve.”
What’s more, ask any expat living in Mexico who has taken the time to learn Mexican Spanish and you’re likely to hear the same story:
Mexican Spanish is different—a lot different.
Mexican Spanish: Caution!
The differences between spoken Spanish in Mexico and the Spanish you would use to promote your business in writing are huge.
Mexican Spanish when spoken is coarser, and sometimes extremely impolite, something you would never want to write with.
The natural rebelliousness of the Mexican culture, where authority is distrusted—especially among millennials—means the ways people speak in everyday life is nothing you would ever want to see in print.
Take for example the word “guey” which loosely translated means “dude.”
While you hear it all the time on the street and in bars, don’t ever put it in writing since it’s way, way more disrespectful that “dude” is in English.
Your readers will be rightly insulted.
There are literally hundreds of other examples, but your biggest risk when wading into Mexican Spanish is something way more embarrassing.
Common words, like the Spanish word for sweet potato, have double meanings which are almost always sexual.
And if you don’t know them and make the mistake of using them in the wrong context, you’ll be laughed out of the room.
The same applies to some verbs. While the verb “coger” which means “to choose” in Spain, it means to have intercourse in Mexico.
The list goes on and on.
As a bilingual translator from the US living in Mexico, I’ve learned to pick my Mexican Spanish words with caution, and have spent more years than you’d like to know learning the grammar and how to speak the language fluently.
But there’s one golden rule I never break: at my translation agency www.mexicotranslation.com.
We hire only native Mexican Spanish speakers to translate from English to Spanish.
We want it to be right, every time.