Spanish is the third most commonly used language online—after English and Russian—and one of the most widely dispersed languages, being spoken in over 20 countries.

It’s also commonly spoken as a second or third language in many countries, including the United States, where 13% of the population speaks Spanish as their native tongue. That’s over 42 million people!

When marketing to Spanish-speaking consumers, you have to pay attention to all the different variants, accents and dialects spoken in your target markets. That’s why you’ll likely come across the term “standard Spanish” when working on Spanish translations.

But what is standard Spanish? And does it even exist?

Keep reading to find out.

What is standard Spanish?

Standard Spanish, also known as “Spanish standard” or “neutral Spanish,” refers to a standardized Spanish language version.

Neutral Spanish is not an official language variant but more of an attempt to choose terms most commonly understood by the largest number of Spanish speakers. For the most part, it involves avoiding local idioms, slang, expressions or phrases that Spanish speakers in different countries may find puzzling, unfamiliar or even offensive.

“You have to be very careful not to use any words that may be offensive in one of the regional varieties. One common example is the word coger , which means ‘grab, seize’ in Spain, but in Argentinean Spanish has a sexual connotation.”

– Fernando Wierna, project manager at VeraContent

Example: When the Mitsubishi Pajero launched in Spain, they didn’t get many sales. Why? Because pajero is a derogative word in Castillian Spanish, meaning “masturbator.” So they rebranded to Mitsubishi Montero in Spain.

Finding the most neutral Spanish word isn’t always an easy thing to do as the vocabulary and grammatical structures vary significantly across Latin American countries and Spain.

In light of this, does standard Spanish actually exist?

The answer isn’t that simple. There are ways to standardize Spanish language content, especially by using formal language and omitting expressions, slang and regional preferences altogether. However, it’s not possible to completely standardize the language given how many countries it’s spoken in.

In general, Spanish speakers are still able to understand each other regardless of the different regional varieties. The different words will just sound more foreign to what they’re used to.

“We can try to create the most neutral Spanish text possible, but it will inevitably sound foreign to some people.”

– Fernando Wierna, project manager at VeraContent

See also: Content marketing in Spain vs. the US: 9 key differences

Is there a standard Spanish accent?

Like any spoken language, there is no standard Spanish accent. But certain accents are more commonly used in mass media and audiovisual content, as they’re considered to be clearer and easier to understand by most speakers.

European Spanish: For example, in Spain, you’ll mostly hear the Castilian Spanish accent on the TV and radio as it’s so widespread across the country. The “purest” or most “neutral” accents are considered to come from central Spain, particularly from the regions of Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla Leon, where the term “Castilian” stems from.

Latin American Spanish: Meanwhile, in Latin America, Colombian Spanish is often considered to have the most neutral accent, as well as Mexican, Venezuelan and Peruvian. However, there is a LATAM Spanish accent often used across TV and radio broadcasts. With origins in Mexico, where most of the first audio and audiovisual production took place, this accent is a sort of hybrid of Mexican and Central American Spanish. But, again, it’s not an official variant.

Check out: Which Spanish language variant is best when marketing to a global audience?

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Should standard Spanish be used in global content marketing?

When aiming to reach a wide audience, particularly in the Spanish-speaking world, the question of whether to use standard Spanish carries significant weight. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for each option.

Advantages of using standard Spanish in content marketing:

  • It ensures maximum clarity and understanding. By employing a standardized form of the language, you eliminate potential barriers caused by regional variations or local slang. This way, Spanish speakers can easily comprehend your message from Spain to Latin America.
  • It brings consistency to your brand’s messaging. Maintaining a cohesive identity is crucial in a global marketing campaign. By using standard language, you create a unified voice that resonates across target audience, regardless of their geographic locations.
  • It provides a level playing field for all Spanish speakers. Adopting a neutral language form avoids favoring or alienating specific regions. This can be especially important when you’re marketing products or services that have a broad appeal across different Spanish-speaking countries. 
  • Given that standard Spanish is widely used in formal communications, you can sound more serious or professional—if that’s what you’re looking for.

See also: Spanish SEO: 4 things to consider before launching a strategy

Drawbacks of using standard Spanish in content marketing:

  • It can make your message feel generic or impersonal.
  • When using standard Spanish, you’re less likely to use words that evoke an emotional response from your audience. And a huge part of engagement relies on appealing and conveying emotions in the audience.
  • Your content will likely lack the cultural nuances and local flavor that can truly resonate with specific audiences
  • It’s harder to forge a genuine connection with consumers without incorporating regional adaptations or localized content.
  • It can get confusing when mistakes slip in. When switching between standard Spanish and more localized versions, it’s easy to end up using a combination of the two, which just ends up confusing—or in some cases, offending—local consumers.
  • It’s easier for an audience skip past or disregard neutral Spanish since it’s not as catchy.

Ultimately, the decision to use standard Spanish in global content marketing depends on your specific goals, target audience and resources. It’s important to consider the nature of your brand, the product or service you’re promoting and the cultural context in which you’re operating.

You may also adopt different versions of Spanish for different types of content marketing. For example, more formal content like case studies and technical documents may allow for standard Spanish. However, more standardized content doesn’t work well in social media—particularly with younger audiences.

Here’s an example of a project we did using a more standardized Spanish:

Spanish article for NTT DATA that we created
Spanish article for NTT DATA that we created.

And here’s an example of an entire website that we localized from Spanish into Catalan, one of the local languages of Spain:

Spanish translation
Spanish to Catalan localization of Heura’s new website | Foods for Tomorrow

Irene Zamora, freelance English to Spanish translator at VeraContent, generally only uses standard Spanish in academic and scientific translations and informational articles intended to be educational or targeting executive or senior positions.

“I often use it in manuals and very technical texts too, mainly because they aim to reach the largest audience possible. They are formal, educational, and the most important aspect, in my opinion, is they don’t aim to elicit any kind of emotional response from the reader.”

In general, we recommend working with native-speaking locals in each region you’re targeting. That way, you can ensure your content will resonate with each audience.

In content marketing, it’s almost always more effective to tailor your content for each region, if you have the budget and resources to do so.

See also: Multilingual content marketing: Your essential guide

Strike a balance between standardized and localized Spanish

Standardized Spanish can be a valuable tool in global content marketing, providing clarity, consistency and a broad reach. However, it’s always best to localize where you can, particularly with social media content. Without some form of localization, your content is unlikely to achieve its goal of connecting and engaging with local audiences.

By understanding your audience and tailoring your approach, you can create compelling content that truly resonates with Spanish speakers worldwide. At VeraContent, we work with native-speakers in each region to ensure that content is adapted for local audiences.

Get in touch with us to find out if you qualify for a free content consultation.