Note: This blog post was originally written in Japanese for our Japanese website. We used our machine translation platform Translation Designer to translate it and post-edit the content in English. The original Japanese post can be found here.

Before we begin, let's first take a look at some statistics of Spanish.

Spanish is one of the languages categorized as FIGS (French / Italian / German / Spanish) and is a major language used not only in Spain but also in Latin American countries. It is used in more than 20 countries and regions as the fourth major language after English, French and Arabic. It is one of the official languages of the United Nations. As a spoken language, it has the third largest population after Chinese and English and is said to have more than 500 million speakers.

Characteristics of Spanish

Spanish was considered a divine language, and its history dates back to the time of the ancient Roman Empire. Latin, which was the official language of the ancient Roman Empire at that time, changed to the Romance language after a long period of cultural aging. While influenced by the Germanic language and Arabic, Spanish was established as the official language of the Kingdom of Spain in the latter half of the 15th century. After that, came a great voyage to the new continent (the South American continent) and territorial expansion, spreading Spanish to Latin American countries. French, Portuguese, and Italian are also based on Latin, or the Romance language. Particularly, Portuguese is similar enough to communicate with Spanish speakers because the process of language formation is similar to Spanish.

Tips when translating Spanish

Spanish is widely used all over the world, from Spain to the southern regions of the United States and Latin American countries. Especially in Central and South America, there are many companies from Japan, and many migrant workers come to Japan as well. It is natural that the demand for Spanish translation is increasing day by day. However, in order to correctly translate into Spanish, you have to be careful because it is a major language.

The "appropriate" Spanish translation?

The first thing to think about is where your readers are. Although the basic grammar and syntax are the same, the words and expressions differ depending on the country and region of your readers. Be aware that the same Spanish word can have different meanings in Europe and South America.

SpainCentral and
South America

Spanish used in Europe?

There is an appropriate Spanish translation for Europe, Central America, and South America. But Spanish used in Europe even has special dialects, which are all official languages. Generally speaking, Spanish used in Europe refers to Castilian Spanish used in the Castilian region. However, in Spain, three official languages are used in addition to Castilian Spanish.

A language spoken in the Catalan region, including Barcelona. Since the region is near the border with France, Catalan is strongly influenced by French.

A language spoken in Galicia, an autonomous community located in northwestern Spain. Due to its close proximity to Portugal, it is more similar to Portuguese than Castilian Spanish.

A language spoken in the Basque Country of northern Spain. It is a completely different language from other Spanish dialects, such as Castilian, and is said to be the most difficult language in the world.

Castilian Spanish is like the standard Japanese, also known as the Tokyo dialect. Therefore, Castilian Spanish can be used in Galicia and Basque Country, but it is often written together with each region's dialect, for example, product descriptions and traffic information. In particular, since Basque is a completely different language, if you're planning to go into the market of the Basque Country, you need to specify the translation for Basque.

Masculine and feminine nouns

Now that your target country or region is clarified, let's move onto the actual translation work. When working on Spanish translations, you should watch out for the nouns. It might be difficult for people whose native language is English or Japanese to understand, but in Spanish, each noun has a gender.

For example,

  • Sun (el sol) is masculine, and moon (la luna) is feminine
  • Money (el dinero) is masculine, and silver (la plata) is feminine
  • Angel (el angel) is masculine, and cross (la cruce) is feminine
    * In plural form, it becomes Los Angeles and Las Cruces, which are cities in the US.

Some have both masculine and feminine forms, each with a different meaning.

  • el capital (as in capital city) is masculine
  • la capital (as in assets) is feminine

Kawamura's Spanish translation service

Since the pronunciation of vowels is similar to Japanese, Spanish is getting popular in Japan as a foreign language to learn. However, when it comes to translating your business documents, professional support is inevitable. At Kawamura International, we can provide professional translation services for Spanish that is suited for your target readers.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.