;   Medical Translation Insight: Is there such a thing as 'neutral'’ Spanish? - ForeignExchange Translations

Is there such a thing as neutral' Spanish? - medical translation
Within linguistic circles, there is a lot of controversy around the concept of a standard Spanish since one single version will always sound odd in at least one given Spanish-speaking country. Not to mention that certain elements could even be completely misunderstood or lost in translation.

At ForeignExchange, we believe that it is possible to produce a neutral or universal Spanish text. Gaby Herce, one of ForeignExchange's hard-working Linguistic Leads, shares the following experience in trying to create a neutral Spanish text:

I was recently asked to participate in a Spanish training video using a "neutral" accent as the client wanted to use one video for all three locales where the video is meant to be released: Europe, USA and Latin America.

For the sake of saving time and money, multinational corporations want to translate their manuals, software, websites, etc. into one single, neutral version of Spanish rather than creating different versions for each country or region.

My 15 years in the translation industry have allowed me to become intimately familiar with different Spanish variations used in Spain, Latina America, and the United States. Therefore, my goal was to use a Spanish whose pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammatical structure would not be clearly recognizable as belonging to any particular region.

Among the elements I had to consider were:
  • The use of 'ustedes' for the second persona plural pronoun, be it in the familiar or formal form; versus the use of 'vosotros' which is the familiar form used in Spain.
  • The use of 'tú' for the familiar second person singular pronoun instead of ´vos'.
  • The pronunciation of the s, c (before e or i) and z.
  • The most predominant region where the product will be sold. This is a decisive factor in, for example, selecting specific terminology where it's hard to find a common term to all countries or deciding whether units of measure should be localized or not.
This was no easy task, but upon reviewing the Spanish script, it quickly became clear that the translation had been done by a Spaniard linguist. The first clue was in the use of 'Pulse' as in 'Push' when referring to a button. We changed it to 'Presione', which conveys the exact same meaning but is more widely known in all three locales.

Another term that posed a problem was the word 'vídeo' since pronouncing it with an accent on the 'í' makes it sound Spaniard, whereas in most countries in Latin America the stress is on the 'e', so I tried not to stress one or the other too much to make it sound as phonetically abstract as possible.

The need to avoid idioms and other regionalisms when dubbing has generated a degree of familiarization with a neutral Spanish in the film and television industry amongs Spanish-speakers in Latin America, but for the most part dubbing is done separately for Spain.

My hope is that the resulting Spanish video approximates a universally intelligible form.

So, what are your thoughts or experiences when it comes to rendering a neutral Spanish for all Spanish-speakers?

ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized medical translation services - in Spanish - and dozens of other languages - to the world's largest medical device and pharmaceutical companies.

1 Comment:

  1. Margaret Nahmias said...
    hahahahahhaha Neutral Spanish is the holy grail for all learners.

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