Allí no se habla español (They don’t speak Spanish there)

Experts will tell you that the Spanish language is such a babel of conflicting idiom that you might as well forget about communicating clearly unless you write specifically in the Spanish of your target country. Only Mexican Spanish for the Mexicans, and so on.

The experts apparently neglected to inform Cervantes of this notion. And Gabriel García Márquez. And Jorge Luis Borges. Not to speak of McGraw-Hill, with five publishing divisions and thousands of titles in Spanish. And the authors of the many school and college textbooks that have for years been in common use by students in every Spanish speaking country in Latin America, and in Spain.

The experts are plainly talking nonsense.

While, as in the United States, there are regional differences in pronunciation, idiom, slang, and dialect, with research and the appropriate translation memory tools, an educated writer from any Spanish-speaking country is perfectly capable of expression, on any subject, that is clear and unambiguous to an educated reader from any other Spanish speaking country. Period.

Microsoft, with all its deep pockets, and with a mandate to speak clearly to its software customers everywhere, prefaces its Spanish language manuals with a User Note addressed to the 300 million people of all countries that share the Spanish language. The note says that Microsoft writes manuals only in a universal Spanish that all of their software users can understand.

Why do they do this? Because it saves a lot of time and money. Microsoft’s manuals aren’t written in some kind of lowest common denominator pablum, either. They are as precise and clear in Spanish as they are in the original English.

Microsoft admits that some of their readers will have to put up with an occasional uncustomary – not unknown – term. In Mexican Spanish, “checar” means “to check”. In everybody’s Spanish, including Mexico’s, “to check” is “verificar”, or “revisar”, or “comprobar”. A skilled translator will use one of those instead of the localism.

For the past six years we’ve been translating the Spanish language edition of Adams-Hunter’s bimonthly magazine Auto And Truck International. It goes to 20,000 car buffs and automotive techs all over Latin America and in Spain. Circulation is rising: it’s clear that our readers understand every word. Which, we like to think, is a good reason why we’ve been doing it for the past six years.

Readers of our proposals will be familiar with a concept called register – “any of the varieties of a language that a writer uses in a particular social context”. It requires translators to match the words they use to the abilities- bluntly, to the level of education- of their readers. A guide for assembly line workers uses register different from a guide written for graduate engineers. A professional translator is very skilled at the art of writing to the correct register.

Another skill our translators need is in the use of Machine Assisted Translation. Consider: engineers speaking the same language, in the same country, in the same industry, and even on the same shop floor, sometimes by preference use a different word for the same part. That makes it hard to construct a glossary of terms that everyone is happy with.

MAT applications – TRADOS, Transit, IBM, and others – make it possible to build a client-specific glossary as the translation is created, and then to manage text revisions or updates in a manual. As important, with little additional cost or effort, MAT manages changes considered necessary for specific markets- for example number and date formatting in Mexico, which follows the U.S. style, or because your customer is more comfortable with certain terms.

We e-mail most of our work now for review overseas by the person who will actually be using it, before final typesetting.

We’ll do your work in FrameMaker, QuarkXPress, InDesign or PageMaker; Mac or PC; and in various other presentation and graphics formats.

Our clients are category leaders who know they are paying a fair price for translation accuracy and dependability.

We are accurate. We deliver on time. You can depend on us, and we trust you to recognize the value in that. Our clients do. Just ask for a reference.