Category Archives: Learn to Speak Spanish

Tips and tricks for studying Spanish. Learn some basic Spanish words, phrases and grammar that may help you in a Spanish conversation.

Main Differences and Similarities Between Spanish and English

copywriter Spanish culture
Flamenco: Ilusiones; By Carmel Natan Sheli” creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Flavio~

As Spanish copywriter one of the things I offer to my clients is my knowledge of the Spanish culture. Today I will take a look to some differences between Spanish and English.

Spanish and English are similar languages in some aspects and have particular characteristics in common, while in other cases we can see notorious differences. One of this peculiar similarities is that both languages have thousands of words that are almost the same; they have just a few differences in writing and speaking between them (for example, “institución” and “institution”, “complejo” and “complex”, or “violeta” and “violet”). This was formerly caused by the Roman invasion in Great Britain centuries ago, when they mixed up the Latin with the native Celtic and Anglo-Saxon languages, and then continued over the years when in the Spanish speaking countries the new words in English were adapted and incorporated.

One important difference between Spanish and English is the adjectives and nouns position on the phrase structure. Also, while in English every name, place and special adjectives must start with capital letter, in the Spanish language this is not the same; only names and other few cases must have this condition, but location adjectives and even date names and similar ones don’t require this as an obligation.

Another determinating difference is that in Spanish the person usage can be easily noticed; there are specific words to define if the conversation (or text) is destined to a well known, relative person, or it is a serious conversation that needs formality with an unknown person. This can be seen in the “tú” (or “vos”) and the “usted” words. In English, this distinction is possible by using and remarking other kind of words, because it is always used the “you” word when must refer to another person; it is possible to use a wide range of formal and serious terms to make this possible, and changing the language depending on what person you wish to talk (or write) to.

Finally, English has a huge amount of dilaects and regional divisions, because it is spoken in several countries and places in the world, and this is influenced by the fact that English is also the international language at this time. But Spanish also have lot of regional differences but it seems easier to understand each other for Spanish speakers than the English ones.

Content webite in Spanish, Usted or Tu?

As a writer in Spanish, one of the most common doubts when writing for a website or blog is related to the question: Should I write “tu” or “usted”?

“Usted” is formal, but in Latin America it is used in informal speech too, whereas “tu” is informal and only used in Spain.

The easy way to solve the problem is to always use “usted”; however if you are writing for Spaniards, your website will not be as accurate as it should.

When to use USTED

In business letters and e mails.

In your website content texts, if you want them to sound more formal. Usually when your audience consists of other businesses rather than individuals.

In blogs only when you want to be very formal, as for example if you are a consultant’s or a doctor. However most of them are writing with TU and I think this will be the trend in the coming future.

In adverts only for some financial, health, etc. adverts. But I really don’t recommend it.

When to use TU

In your website content, only if your marketing strategy is a brand that is a friend of the audience. For example, if your target is young people.

In your blog posts.

In adverts.

Things to keep in mind as a Spanish redactor

USTED is boring and serious. You have to decide if you need to sell an engaging brand that is a customer’s friend or a very trustworthy brand.

TU is more engaging, and marketing usually needs to be fun. It is likely accurate for your blog.

TU creates a close relationship with clients.

Usted creates a professional ambience.

With time TU is being more and more accepted, even by elderly people.

Catch it!

creative commons licensed ( BY-ND ) flickr photo shared by (Mick Baker)rooster
creative commons licensed ( BY-ND ) flickr photo shared by (Mick Baker)rooster

When writing in a language that is spoken in several countries, clients usually ask for “neutral language”. A neutral language is a way to express things that sounds more or less natural for all native speakers regardless of where the native speaker was born.

Due to good luck in Spanish we have the Real Academia de la Lengua Española that helps everybody to know what is correct and what is not.

However, there are some expressions that, though are well explained in Real Academia Española’s books, it is hard to imagine how weird they could sound if you use them in them for the wrong audience.

One of these expressions is the word “coger” to catch, which in Spain we use all the time in an innocent way. The problem for Spanish content writers comes when a user from Latin America read it, because in the full continent “coger” is a vulgar way to say have sex.

So Spaniards say “Vamos a coger un taxi” (let’s take a taxi) whilst Latin Americans laugh hard about the idea.

Of course this is great and fun between friends, but when it comes to your website content, it is better if you are aware of it.

So, be careful with this verb if your readers will be out of Spain. As a tip, you can use “tomar” instead of it.

This is one of the reasons for choosing to hire a native speaker when looking for a copywriter in Spanish.

Why a Spaniard doesn’t use the Spain’s official flag

When I was creating this website, I thought that one of my characteristics I wanted to stress was the fact that I am a native Spanish writer from Spain.

So putting the flag of Spain in the homepage seemed a good option. However, I was in doubt because we, Spaniards, don’t use the flag as freely as the other countries do.

In Spain’s history there is a dictatorship and, though it happened several years ago and we live in a democracy now, some people stills identify the patriotism with a similarity with the dictatorship ideas. The flag is sometimes more linked with a political point of view than with the country.

Of course it doesn’t make sense and all people in Spain should be proud of its flag. But politics wounds are difficult to heal.

 

Can I use the Spain’s flag?

Since Spain won the football (soccer) worldcup in 2010, people get used to show the flag with a wholesome feeling. I would say that the weird feelings about the flag are no longer there.

Anyway, if you are foreign, use the flag is always welcomed. You can use it to show that you speak the languages, that you like the country, that you have positive feelings about it. There won’t be a problem.

If you are of national origin you can use it, but there could be a little proportion of the population that will suspect you. So it depends on the context, on what you are saying, etc, but sadly you still need to be careful with it.

As a conclusion, we are still working on restore the flag to normal feelings, and we have recently done some steps, but the task is not finished yet.

So if you are writing for your company, you likely don’t want to open this kind of political discussion. If you are big international company, the flag is ok, if you are not; my advice is beinfg careful with the context.