How Can We Be More Inclusive in Spanish?

Humans continuously evolve, but as we do, we struggle to let go of what is familiar. In recent years, a debate has emerged about if the gendered aspects of the Spanish language should evolve with us or be left alone. Currently, the Spanish culture is divided. Feminists are fighting against the plural masculine in order to make the language more inclusive not only of women, but also of non-binary people. Whether or not it’s been “officially” decided, Spanish is evolving and this can be seen and heard in the streets and in the media. 

Creating a more inclusive Spanish language would take work, but is doable. Let’s look at a few ways to make nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and articles more inclusive. 

Double Up

Those who support inclusive language are proposing “doubling up” on genders. An example of this would be instead of saying “the school children”, they would explicitly mention the masculine and feminine children at once by saying, “the school girls and boys”. This is not a perfect solution as it doesn’t represent the individuals who don’t consider themselves to fall under the binary representation of male and female. 

People who aren’t a fan of this solution also argue that when you double up, you’re providing an unnecessary and artificial linguistic workaround. Plus, the text can become unnecessarily wordy. Proponents of this change argue that it does give visibility to women and avoids confusion caused by ambiguity. 

Using Collective or Abstract Nouns 

The use of collective or abstract nouns that don’t show gender can also be a potential solution. A good example of making this work, can be seen with “the citizens” which in Spanish is “los ciudadanos”. Instead, you can say “la ciudadanía” which is a non-gendered collective noun and translates to “the citizenry”. You can make similar swaps with other nouns, but do have to be careful as there can be a slight change in meaning which may not provide the right contextual fit. 

The Letter “E” in Articles, Adjectives, and Nouns

Because there are only two genders in Spanish, when a group that contains both the female and male genders is addressed, the speaker will traditionally default to the masculine plural. To make language choices in these scenarios more inclusive, whenever you have an adjective, noun, or article, you can change the “O” at the end to an “E”. Let’s look at how to do this. You can swap gendered nouns like “los niños” or “las niñas” with “les niñes”. If you want to make a singular word gender-neutral, you would make the same swap for the feminine “A” or the masculin “O” at the end of the singular word.

The “Elle” Pronoun

The “E” can also be used when referring to those who are non-binary by using the word “elle” as the personal pronoun. Elle, is the Spanish equivalent of “they”. The Spanish speakers in support of these changes argue that “E” is an existing letter in the alphabet and the pronunciation is easy. On the flip side, those against this change don’t appreciate how against the norm it is and feel that Spanish already has mechanisms that can work to avoid using gendered expressions that don’t require making such a drastic change. 

More Solutions Exist

While these are a few of the more common solutions being used today, other options exist for making Spanish more inclusive. If you’re interested in learning more about them, Modii offers a non-sexist language guide in Spanish that is worth checking out.


Spanish: A Gendered Language Seeking to be More Inclusive

In recent years, the term “Latinx” has been proposed — and begun to come into use in the U.S. — as a shift to a more inclusive Spanish language when it comes to gender. In other countries of Latin American and even in Spain, people are also looking for ways to be more inclusive. In order to understand why some people are arguing for a shift towards gender-neutral or non-sexist language, it’s important to look closer at how gender works in the Spanish language and how the language can evolve. 

How Gender Works in Spanish

In the Spanish language, all nouns have a gender. Other words used in conjunction with nouns agree in gender as well, so articles and adjectives are also gendered. Typically, masculine nouns end in an O and feminine nouns end in an A. Spanish is not the only language structured like this. Spanish is just one of many gender-based languages that defaults to a generic masculine ending. If the gender of a subject is not specified or known, or if the noun is representing a group with both masculine and feminine members in it, then the masculine ending will be used. For example, in Spanish the word for boy is “niño” and the word for girl is “niña”, but when you have a group of children of mixed genders, the word used would be “niños”. 

Inclusion of Female and Non Binary Individuals

Those who are fighting for more inclusion of women and non-binary individuals are changing how they speak and write. In many cases, they are replacing the masculine O and the feminine A with a gender-neutral E. Let’s look at how this may work in practice. The default word for the word friends is “amigos” (which is masculine). Those looking to make changes in the language are using “amigues” instead. 

Not everyone wants to see these changes made. The Royal Spanish Academy in Spain wants to leave the current gendered structure of Spanish as is. From their perspective, the default masculine plural is intended to be inclusive and represents females as well as males. 

It’s important to highlight, though, that without making formal changes to the language, there are ways to make Spanish more modern and inclusive in everyday life. It does take a little bit of creativity, but workarounds for avoiding using default masculine nouns do exist.

How Should Translators Proceed?

When it comes to translation work, should translators observe the norm or adapt? There is no one correct answer here. Who your audience is will largely influence whether or not you should stick to the traditional structures or should adapt to these modern solutions to making the language more inclusive. 

Language is a living entity that changes and evolves over time, it does not remain stagnant. There is room for change, the question is, is your audience ready for that change? While the Royal Spanish Academy may say no, plenty of young individuals are fighting for change. Take your target audience into account when deciding how you want to communicate your message. Will they be more likely to engage with your content if you make gender-neutral changes or will that push them away? Sticking with what your audience is most comfortable with may not please everyone who comes across your content, but will hopefully keep the base of your audience happy. For a translation project to be successful, you need to aim to deliver your message as effectively as possible, so consider how you can make that happen.


Hispanics, Latinos, and Latinx — Are They the Same?

We live in a very big world that is full of diverse and rich cultures, places, and people. There are many differences between our many cultures that we should celebrate, but far too often overlook. One such example of letting lines blur too easily, are the terms Hispanic, Latino, and Latinx. All three of which tend to be used interchangeably and incorrectly. These three terms are not the same and necessarily don’t represent the same groups of people. Let’s explore what each of these terms means and the one unifying factor that links these different groups together. 

Hispanics vs. Latinos vs. Latinx

Before we look at what unites these different groups, let’s look at how they differ and where some of the confusion about their differences may stem from. In many cases these terms overlap, but they do mean different things. 

Hispanic. The term hispanic is used to refer to those that come from a Spanish-speaking background and does not reflect their geographic location. 

Latino. This term does in fact relate to location and not to language. In order to classify someone as Latino, they generally need to come from the geographic region of Latin America. The term Latino includes people from many areas in Central and South America, alongside the Caribbean. In many cases people identify as both Hispanic and Latino, as both terms apply to their backgrounds. For example, someone from Brazil is a Latino, Latina or Latinx because they are from Latin America, but their language is not Spanish, it is Portuguese. Whereas someone from Colombia is both a Latino, Latina or Latinx and also Hispanic (because they speak Spanish).

Latinx. While the term Latinx is relatively new, it is becoming an important term used in conversations about gender equality and inclusion. Spanish is a gendered language, which means words are associated with the female or male gender. A Latin American woman is a Latina and a Latin American man is a Latino. Latinx has appeared as an alternative to be inclusive of people who don’t associate with either gender. Essentially, Latinx is a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina. If someone is Latino, they are also Latinx and vice versa. The primary purpose of this term is to be inclusive of people who don’t consider themselves to be female or male.

A Diverse Presence in the US

The US Census Bureau counts anyone who says they are Hispanic as Hispanic, which allows residents to choose how they identify. As cultural norms evolve surrounding what it means to be Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx in the US today, this enables those self-reporting to identify as they see fit. As of July, 2019 it was estimated that almost 61 million Hispanics lived in the U.S. accounting for 18.5% of the nation’s total population. 

What Unites Them

Ultimately, all of these terms are labels and very wide labels at that. Within each label, there is so much diversity and many countries of origin that fall under them. Sometimes, the only thing that unites these groups is a shared language — Spanish. In the US, many Hispanics from different countries are united by their shared language. Because all these Spanish speakers of different nationalities coexist in the US and interact with each other and with English speakers, the language has and continues to evolve and adapt. The Spanish language one can hear in the US is known as US Spanish.

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Spanish Variants Explained: What are they and which should I localize to?

As the official language of 21 countries, Spanish continues to evolve and establish itself as a globalized language. There are currently 577,256,327 Spanish speakers in the world according to a 2018 report from the Spanish government’s Cervantes Institute. This figure is five million more than the previous study published in November 2017. Although the number of Spanish speakers is on the rise, it’s important to note that within the single language are significant differences in speech. Grammar to expressions vary within the Spanish language highly dependent upon geography and migration. In addition to vocabulary issues, there are words or phrases that are actually inappropriate in some countries but not in others. In translation, the most common Spanish variants include LATAM, Mexican, U.S., European or Iberian, and neutral. 

So what variant is best for your translation and localization needs? Let’s take a closer look at Spanish variants around the world.

What is LATAM Spanish?

The culmination of Spanish, Portuguese, and French, Latin America is a group of countries that stretch from the northern border of Mexico to the southern tip of South America. There are 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean today, according to the United Nations. Out of these 33, Spanish is the official language of 18. Because the territory is so large, there is no “uniformed” Spanish. Every country’s dialect is unique and varies greatly. In order to cater to the majority of Latin American Spanish speakers, translators developed what is referred to as “LATAM Spanish”. This “Generic LATAM Spanish” avoids country colloquialisms but still sounds familiar with the general audience. LATAM Spanish is considered to be a broader variant than Mexican Spanish.

When localizing cultural references such as food, pop-culture, legal, and marketing texts, in-country linguists may be best to accurately reflect the target country’s expressions. However, in many cases, LATAM Spanish will suffice for the localization. 

What is Mexican Spanish?

Although Mexico is considered part of Latin America, the region has a variant all of its own. From vocabulary to idioms, there lives a dialect that is unique and specific to the country. In many cases, Mexican Spanish is the selected variant because of its large demographic and reach. When compared to other Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas, Mexico is ranked first. In the U.S., Mexican Spanish is often studied in schools more than any other dialect. This variant works perfectly for a Mexican audience but won’t effectively garner desired results in other Spanish-speaking markets. 

What is U.S. Spanish?

At over 50 million Spanish speakers, the U.S. now has the second-largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. There is a misconception that its proximity to Mexico means the U.S. Spanish variant is predominantly a Mexican variant. In actuality, the U.S. displays vibrant influences of Puerto-Rican, Dominican, and other Latin American countries. The influence of Hispanics who have migrated to the U.S. from various Latin American countries over generations has cultivated a Spanish variant of its own. The coexistence of the English and Spanish language has also transformed the way U.S. Spanish is spoken and written. The most distinct characteristic of this variant is that it reserves many of its the English formatting conventions such as date, decimals, time, and even capitalization.

What is European Spanish or Iberian Spanish?

European Spanish (or Iberian) is truly unique because it is the most isolated dialect from the rest of the variants. The Spanish spoken in Spain is called Castilian, a term that refers to the province of Castile located in central Spain. It is said that the Spanish language originated there.

Take an in-depth look at its vocabulary, grammar, and phonetic in our blog post Latin American Spanish vs. European Spanish.

What is Neutral Spanish?

Neutral Spanish is the “universal” variant. From the U.S. to Europe to Latin America, this variant can be understood on a global level. Neutral Spanish is the attempt of linguistic authorities to standardize the language across borders. Determining a common vocabulary is designed to ensure maximum understanding amongst speakers and readers, cutting out local variations and colloquialisms.

For technical and specialized texts, a universal Spanish could be acceptable. Unlocalized variants that don’t reflect specific regions or communities also work well for the translation of informative texts such as instruction manuals, medical prospectuses, and the description of products. 

Despite offering an efficient solution for technical information, this model is not recommended for translations related to artistic or creative activities such as literary translations, film subtitles, video games, and advertising. Failure to localize can disrupt engagement and negatively impact source credibility.

In conclusion, know your audience!

Neutral Spanish is an acceptable practice that most Spanish speakers will easily understand. However, to truly resonate with an audience, it’s best to localize to your target market as closely as possible. By taking the extra step to understand and learn the culture as well as the dialect of the target market, you will create materials that genuinely relates to audiences. Your audience will feel closer to your message and your business will gain a higher opportunity to engage. A strategic and successful campaign will be the launching pad to expand to more countries and craft messaging to new local audiences. 

When launching a project, marketing campaign, document, book, or movie in a Spanish-speaking market, be sure to do your research. Depending on what you’re creating, you may need to use a more localized Spanish dialect for maximum impact.

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Spanish Voice-overs: How to Get it Right

Spanish is one language with a shared basic core. However, colloquialisms, dialects, and even grammar can greatly vary from region to region. Spanish spoken in Latin America differs to the Spanish spoken in Europe. Even Spanish spoken across the U.S. differs due to the migration patterns of people from various Spanish speaking countries and where they settled in the states. These unique dialects make this dynamic language more complex and translators must keep every difference in mind when translating voice-over scripts.

Biggest Spanish Voice-over Mistake

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is recording a voice-over with an individual who has a strong accent and dialect that does not reflect the target market (unless otherwise stated in the creative brief). For example, utilizing talent from Chile would be extremely disruptive for an e-learning course in Mexico. The speed and emphasis on syllables differs tremendously between the two Spanish-speaking regions. An equivalent to this would be British talent recording a voice-over for an American literature e-book. The British accent and pronunciation differences would be an unnecessary distraction to a U.S. audience.

There are 20 countries where Spanish is the official language, as can be seen in the map above, but there are other territories where Spanish is widely spoken, like the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Argentina, Chile, Spain, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, etc. all have very unique sounds. Even those Spanish regions that sound similar may have different ways to refer to the same action, attribute, object, etc. Language nuances such as these can severely impact understanding and even credibility. Poor voice-over works can destroy campaigns, confuse audiences, and even go viral for its unintentional hilarity.

Improving Spanish Voice-overs

To minimize issues, one solution is recording the voice-over as neutral as possible. Neutral voice-overs abstain from slang and incorporate expressions that are well known to most regions. This will allow brands to create one deliverable for multiple projects. The upside to this method is that it lowers costs. The downside is that the expressions and vocabulary can be viewed as “watered-down” or too generalized for audiences.

For an optimal translation, it’s best to localize the voice-over to the region of the target language. For broader scopes of work, another option is hiring several talents from various regions to record multiple versions of the copy. When scouting for voice-over professionals, talent will often specify the Spanish regions they represent.

It’s possible to find talent that can record in several different Spanish variants, however, you should proceed with caution. Often times these multi-regional talents make mistakes such as mispronouncing a regional word or not picking up on the local cadence of conversation. Audiences can hear the doubt in the talent’s voice when these moments arise. There are many different elements to an accent, therefore, it’s very difficult to sound like a native in different Spanish variants.

Keeping up with Globalization

Rapid globalization created opportunities for businesses of all sizes to reach international markets. More than half of all U.S. companies (58%) have some foreign market involvement according to a survey by USForex. Layered on top of this trend is the growth of Spanish speakers around the world. An estimated 754 million people will speak Spanish by 2050 accordingly to a 2017 study from the Cervantes Institute.

Translation service providers are quickly adapting to this change by fine-tuning their strategies to fit the global needs of their clients. This means that companies will need to ensure that all elements of a voice-over align with the audience it’s intended for. Terra Translations specializes in translation and voice-over of all forms, including e-learning courses, institutional videos, and audio books.

Latin American Spanish vs. European Spanish

Latin American Spanish vs. European Spanish

From spellings to accents, there are notable differences between English in America and English in Britain. Similarly, Spanish differs from Latin America to Europe. Because the distinctions are not monumental, both regions can still easily communicate with one another. However, the differences are important to understand, especially within the translation industry where it’s critical for accurate localization to reflect the target region.

Let’s take a look at how European, specifically Spain, known as Castilian Spanish is different from Latin American Spanish.


While there are vocabulary variances across Spanish speaking countries around the globe, there are distinct differences between the vocabulary of Latin America and Spain. One example of this is mobile phone. In Spain, cell phone is translated móvil while in Latin America mobile is celular. Another example is coche in Spain versus carro or auto in Latin America. A commonly used word that diverges is computer which is ordenador in Spain and computadora in Latin America.


The forms of addressing a person vary between regions. In Spain, to address one person as you, the Spaniard would use for informal use or usted for formal situations. This rule is shared throughout most of Latin America. However, where it differs is in Argentina and Uruguay where vos is used for informal situations. This illustrates that variants exist across Latin America itself and that there is not necessarily a standardized Latin American Spanish.

The pronoun and vos could be used interchangeably, but there are other changes associated with this as well such as verb conjugations.

For example:
You must study.
Vos tenés que estudiar.
Tú tienes que estudiar.

Vosotros vs. Ustedes

The use of the third person plural pronoun is another difference between European Spanish and Latin American Spanish. In Spain the word commonly used is vosotros and in Latin America you will often hear ustedes. Vosotros is never used in Latin America. Spaniards recognize ustedes but it’s considered extremely formal.

The differences are illustrated not only in the personal pronoun but also in the possessive pronoun.

For example:
You know how important it is to study another language.
Vosotros sabéis lo importante que es estudiar otro idioma.
Ustedes saben lo importante que es estudiar otro idioma.

How many of your friends study another language?
¿Cuántos de vuestros amigos estudian otro idioma?
¿Cuántos de sus amigos estudian otro idioma?


Throughout Spain, an acceptable practice known as leísmo is recognized. This refers to the use of the indirect object pronoun le instead of the correct direct object pronoun lo or la. This is only grammatically recognized when referring to male persons. Leísmo is not applied when referring to a female or using plural forms.

For example:
I did not see Santiago yesterday.
A Santiago no le vi ayer. Here leísmo is used as the indirect object pronoun.
A Santiago no lo vi ayer. Here standard Spanish is applied and the direct object pronoun is used.

Pronunciation of Z and C

One of the most obvious incongruencies is in the way Spaniards pronounce specific letters compared to Latin Americans. For example, in Spain the letter Z has the pronunciation similar to the English sound of TH, almost sounding like a lisp. Similarly, the letter C before I and E, also has the sound of TH. In Latin American countries, Z and C before I and E always have the sound of an S. For example, zapato in Spain is pronounced TH-apato. In Latin America, zapato is pronounced S-apato. Spaniards pronounce cinco as TH-inco and Latin Americans say S-inco. Not using the TH pronunciation is described linguistically as seseo. In addition to pronunciation differences, some Latin American countries will often drop the s when it’s at the end of words entirely.

Ultimately, especially for the translation and localization industry, it’s highly essential to be aware of these key differences. By understanding and properly addressing the language nuances of the target market, the translations will be more impactful and better resonate with audiences. Failure to properly localize to the appropriate Spanish region will create a disconnect and even cause an unnecessary distraction away from the translated content.

What is the U.S. Spanish Variant

What is the U.S. Spanish Variant?

There are over half a billion Spanish speakers across the globe according to a 2017 study from the Cervantes Institute. With population growth soaring in Spanish speaking countries as well as the U.S., this number is estimated to rise to 754 million people by 2050. Even within this single romance language, there are major differences in vocabulary and grammar dependent on region.

At 50 million Spanish speakers and growing, the U.S. now has the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world after Mexico. 70 percent of Latino families are speaking the language at home with the next generation and over time, the U.S. has developed a Spanish variant of its own.

The influence of Hispanics who have migrated to the U.S. from various Latin American countries has a tremendous impact on the U.S. variant. In addition to this, the English language shaped the way U.S Spanish is spoken and written in this country. When translating from English into Spanish, we must keep these considerations in mind. The differences can impact not only understanding, but credibility.

Extralinguistic Conventions

Conventional tones and stylistic principles of English have been adopted by the U.S. Spanish variant. For example, date format in the U.S. is month/day/year. In the rest of Spanish-speaking countries, it is formatted as day/month/year. Adhering to U.S. linguistic conventions, the U.S. Spanish variant utilizes the U.S. format. Other similar extralinguistic conventions include numerical notation, Anglo-Norman measures, and time. Aspects referred to as “country preference” determine how we use Spanish in reference to English. For example, we use PCP (Primary Care Provider). The functionality is determined by the acronym that appears on the card of the health plan member.

Linguistic Conventions

Occasionally the best communication solution for the U.S. variant is the one that most resembles the English language. For example, the designations of state agencies do not have the same equivalences in all countries. The Department of Education can be translated as Ministry of Education or Education secretary. In the U.S. it translates as the Departamento de Educación, which is the official denomination in Spanish of this entity. It’s a simplified approach that unequivocally denotes the real government entity. In U.S. Spanish, this corresponds to the national reference that has been given to the state entity regardless of the linguistic equivalence of the term in other countries. In some cases, we translate the names of government entities but put them in English in parentheses along with their English initials.

Diverse U.S. Hispanics

Just as the English language continues to evolve to create new words from city to city, so does U.S. Spanish. Even within the U.S., different regions have its own unique dialects. For example, the Spanish spoken in Texas is very different from the Spanish in New York. Hispanics in Texas have a heavy Mexican influencer while New York is rooted in Puerto Rican, Dominican Republic, and South American dialects. Translators must understand the diverse Hispanic population in the U.S. to effectively translate into a neutral Spanish intended for Hispanics across the states. Here it is necessary to know the different semantic or misleading connotations that some words have in different countries. For example, “coger” in Spain means “to grab” while in most Latin American countries “coger” means “to have sex”. It is also necessary to avoid localisms or “Americanisms,” such as remera for “t-shirt” said in Argentina, and lana for “money” said in Mexico. Other borrowed English words include: baby shower, blog, webinar, hardware, software, parking, and e-mail.