The many faces of Español

Santi Lopez | Nov 7, 2011

One Language - many tongues

Spanish may be the most commonly spoken language in Latin America but the differences among the Spanish Languages spoken in each country are significant. For example, the word for ‘bus’ in Colombia is “bus” (pronounced Boos). In Mexico it is ‘cameon’ and in Puerto Rico, ‘guagua’! To complicate matters further, in many Latin American countries the word ‘cameon’ means truck, and ‘buseta’ which means mini-bus throughout most of South America, is slang for ‘vagina’ in Brazil! Never, never say “where can I catch the ‘buseta’ in Brazil! Another example is ‘cool’. In Argentina one would say ‘macanudo’. In the Andean region, ‘chevere’; in Puerto Rico, ‘chulo’ and in Mexico, ‘padre’. Same language, different idioms.


Thankfully, most Latinos, especially those from the educated class can cross national language barriers and understand each other well. But, one way of beginning to understand the cultural and language differences among Latin Americans is to break-up the region into smaller blocks with similar cultural traits. Latin America has six very distinct areas when it comes to language (expressions & accents), food and general culture.


The Andean region includes Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. The Caribbean includes Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. South America’s southern cone includes Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. Central America is made up of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. And, although Belize is part of Central America, English and not Spanish is the most widely spoken language there.


Finally, Mexico and Brazil are the 5th and 6th distinct regions of Latin America. Mexico has over 100 million inhabitants, making it the most populated Spanish-speaking country in the world. Number two is technically Colombia, although the US actually has more Latinos; about 53 million! And, despite Brazil’s predominant use of Portuguese, many Brazilians speak and understand Spanish given its widespread use in South American deals between Merco-sur trading nations which include Brazil and four Spanish speaking countries.


Does it matter?

Only if you are interested in a return on your marketing dollars and success in your export initiative.  Marketing localization is  actually a broader topic than simply language, which is often oversimplified to "translation."


Consilium's model incorporates localization into the broader strategic plan.  Contact us to see how we can help your firm.