Spanish is the 2nd most spoken language with the most native speakers in the world after Mandarin, and English is the language most widely learned in the world as a second language. In fact, the total number of English speakers, counting both native and non-native, is even greater than that of Spanish. Both languages are very important for international business, especially in the Americas where English is widely spoken to the north, and Spanish to the south. English is the official language of the USA and, along with French, one of the two official languages of Canada; on the other hand, Spanish is official throughout most of Latin America – Brazil is the only major economy of the region where Portuguese is used instead of Spanish. This language distribution in the Americas is in great part due to the European colonial empires which controlled different portions of the territory a few centuries ago.
Translating Spanish to English depends heavily on context; one of the main characteristics of Latin American Spanish is the tendency to assign multiple meaning to the same words, and most of the time they are completely unrelated meanings. The complexity of the Spanish language has become such that some words can be adequate under some contexts and offensive in others, even within the same country. In Mexico, for example, this has even been studied as a cultural phenomenon and is the topic of books.
Strong commercial relationships exist between North and South America, and Spanish to English professional translation services are necessary in order to carry out business effectively. In addition, affluent Latin Americans frequently travel to the USA for medical attention or to obtain academic degrees; both of which require specialized translation services from Spanish to English.
Guidelines for Spanish to English Translation
Translation is best carried out as a two-step process involving two translators with different profiles. However, with Spanish to English translation there is an advantage: English is very common in the world as a second language, and as a result there are many native Spanish speakers also have a high degree of fluency in English. It is possible to find native Spanish speakers who learned English since early childhood and as a result they have acquired native-like fluency.
- Given the complexity of Spanish, the translation to English can be carried out more effectively by a bilingual native speaker who is from the same country where the source material was created.
- Proofreading and double-checking should be left to a native English speaker, but who also has fluency in Spanish. However, if the first translator has a high enough degree of English fluency, the adjustments required in this step will be minimal or none.
Some further recommendations when carrying out a translation from Spanish to English are the following:
- Specialized translations for academic, technical, medical or legal fields should be carried out by translators who possess the corresponding professional background. Keep in mind that sometimes the translator may be required to be certified by a local or regional institution. It is also possible that a notarized translation may be requested.
- Software is unable to handle regional language diversity and slang words. For single-word translation, software is a practical and quick solution. However, automatic translation will typically be rejected for formal uses.
In short, hiring a professional translation service is the best way to ensure a satisfactory translation from Spanish to English, which will account for regional language differences.