S2 EP11 Differences between EU and LATAM Spanish in Video Games

S2 EP11 – Differences between EU and LATAM Spanish in Video Games

Watch the episode on YouTube

Episode Transcription

MELISA: Hi, everyone, and welcome to a new episode of Open World. My name is Melisa, I’m here with Lara and Ale.



MELISA: And today we’re going to talk about different Spanish variants. So we told you guys that our first language is Spanish. But the challenging thing about Spanish is that it’s the official language of 21 countries. So it definitely, like… it raises some questions about which Spanish should you translate your video game, in particular, of course, if it’s, like, European Spanish or… There’s something that we know of like Latin American Spanish, which is not, you know… How would you guys describe the Latin American Spanish?

ALEXIS: One size fits many?

LARA: Yeah, one size that tries to fit all of them.

MELISA: Exactly.

LARA: But, yeah, it sounds weird, it doesn’t sound natural, but it’s something that we are exposed on a very young age. From TV shows, from series, from movies and everything that you’re consuming that is media, you hear this neutral Latin American Spanish that doesn’t actually represent any dialect or any country in particular.

MELISA: Exactly. So it’s like it’s not spoken in any country, but it’s more like it was designed so that everyone can understand it. So you take out all of the like, regionalisms, idioms and…

ALEXIS: Yeah, you’re not gonna hear how you speak, but you’re gonna understand the same thing that a person from Colombia, Uruguay, or Venezuela understands.

LARA: Exactly, yeah. And sometimes it is… they call it the Mexican Spanish and it is not even Mexican Spanish, because not even Mexicans speak like that. It’s just like they try to make it the most… understandable for all the countries in Latin America, and it still sometimes sounds weird for us.

MELISA: Yeah, especially as, like, adults, I think now we can understand it. But when we were kids, I mean, like you said, all our cartoons are dubbed in like this neutral kind of Spanish. I don’t know about you guys, like, if you used this when you were kids, like, playing using neutral Spanish or if you heard like kids speaking this way.

LARA: Oh, my God, yeah. I mean, every time you find yourself with a little kid, you probably might hear them speak in this neutral Spanish, and it’s just like, oh, my God, why are you talking like that?

ALEXIS: Why are you talking like that? It’s neutral.

LARA: It’s so neutral and it sounds so weird. Maybe when it’s coming from like a movie or a video game or something, it doesn’t sound that weird. But when it comes from another human’s mouth, it’s like, “Why are you talking like that?”

ALEXIS: Right, because it’s not your own.

LARA: No, it’s not your own. Yeah.

ALEXIS: In Spain, movies, video games, they sound like they do. So that’s the main difference. I mean, it’s one for everyone, but that’s for them. It happened to me that I was talking to a colleague from Spain, from Madrid, and she told me that it’s very, very important for them.

LARA: I think it is something, it’s even stated by law, they have to have all the media voiceover and subtitled and everything. So it’s just like, it is something that’s very important for them, and we have been consuming their content because of the lack of this Latin American neutral Spanish, right? And both of them sound weird for us, but one of them gets closer to what we understand now.

MELISA: Definitely. I think that the difference between like European and Latin American is really big. They should definitely be considered like two different languages when you’re translating.

LARA: I mean, you can understand each other. Like sometimes maybe, when you, as a Spanish speaker, you might understand something from Portuguese or Italian too, because we share some similarities with the languages, but yeah, it’s just completely different languages.

MELISA: Yeah, and in the case of video games, I mean, we always talk about that immersive experience that you get, especially when you’re playing a game and it’s spoken in your language. Have you guys played any games that were translated into Latin American Spanish?

LARA: Luckily, yes.

MELISA: Or European Spanish?

LARA: Yes. But the thing is, sometimes you don’t get the voiceovers in Latin American Spanish.

ALEXIS: Yeah, just the text.

LARA: Just the text. Which I don’t like, to be honest with you, because the voiceovers sometimes are weird.

ALEXIS: I prefer the voiceovers in English if it’s not done properly, myself.

LARA: Otherwise, it’s just some weird… because if they try to do like a voiceover using neutral Spanish, and sometimes you may have different nationalities in the game or something like that, they might sound a little bit… racist?


ALEXIS: They go to stereotypes.

LARA: Yeah, they go to stereotypes. I don’t… I don’t like that.

MELISA: Yeah. I mean, I know, it happens sometimes in English as well, like when they’re making up accents according to that character’s background or something. But yeah, in Spanish it’s used as well, and it can sound a bit strange.

LARA: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, but, like, the first thing that comes to my mind is actually, when you have something to grab, to pick up, and you have the Spanish…

ALEXIS: That’s the easiest… Yeah. It shows.

LARA: Yeah, it’s just like, when you’re going to grab something, in Spanish it says “coger,” but in Latin American Spanish, that means “to have sex.” So it’s just like, how can a word be so different and have these kinds of… ugh!

ALEXIS: Two different meanings altogether.

LARA: Yeah, and I’m not saying to be like, yeah, you should totally make this game in Argentinian Spanish, so every time I have to put on a T-shirt, it will say “remera.” No, it’s okay, I get it. Because not every country from Latin America will understand that this is a “remera” because in Chile, this is called a “polera.” So it’s just like, it changes.

ALEXIS: Or “money” in Mexico is “lana.” We in Argentina don’t call it “lana.” But it’s used.

MELISA: Yeah. I mean, one of the most challenging things when you have to translate into Latin American Spanish is exactly like, you know, it’s just to not have any offensive words that can, you know, be interpreted in very different ways, like that word from Spain. But even in, like, Mexico. I mean, we have very different words that can mean something offensive in other countries. So what do you guys think is the best approach when you have to have like that kind of neutral kind of Latin American Spanish and try not to be offensive?

LARA: Yeah, for me, it’s like to find a common ground, to do your research. So maybe have people from those specific countries working in your team so you have a diverse team that can put their input and their knowledge or their words that maybe you don’t know the meaning behind that specific word. Yeah, for me, it’s a little bit of that, to find a common ground, but also having a diverse team that can put a good input into what you’re trying to translate.

ALEXIS: It needs to be mindful. I mean, Latin American Spanish works, of course, but if you have the resources to do further research and truly, truly tune, you know, everything, it’s gonna make the experience much more enjoyable for everyone.

MELISA: Absolutely. I mean, if it is… I mean, and some people are doing this, like, instead of having this Latin American neutral Spanish, having it localized to, like, Spanish from Mexico or Colombia or Argentina, for example, depending on your audience. And when you do that, you’re definitely going to make a difference on those countries that you’re targeting, because we’re not used to having content localized to our… So, you know, you can connect a lot better, especially, I mean, a lot of video games are full of, I don’t know, like, jokes and, you know, word plays…

ALEXIS: Colloquialisms.

MELISA: Yeah. And all of that is basically missed when you’re having it in Latin American Spanish because it sounds very like washed-up, like a bland version of Spanish without any regionalisms, without… And one example I always think of is Deadpool. I don’t know if you guys have watched this movie.

ALEXIS: Yeah, both.

MELISA: Of course, both. And, I mean, for everyone who has watched it, you know, in English it’s just full of…

LARA: So fun.

MELISA: Yeah, exactly. It’s full of swear words, everything, and, like, actually, when they translated it to Spanish from Spain, they won an important award because the adaptation was so creative and they used so many jokes and so many things from Spanish from Spain. But everyone from Latin America had to sit through, like, a very just generic movie that wasn’t, you know, a lot of references, a lot of jokes were kind of missed.

LARA: Yeah, some of the jokes were not properly targeted. I remember, like, maybe… If I’m mistaken, please correct me, but I believe Luis Miguel was one of the characters of one of the jokes, instead of another famous person. And we were like… Eh…

MELISA: Who can everyone from Latin America know? Let’s just…

LARA: Let’s go with Luis Miguel.


LARA: Yeah. It was a little bit painful to watch in Latin America, in the Latin American Spanish. I appreciate the effort, though.

MELISA: Yeah, of course. Of course. I mean, we understand, sometimes it’s like the easiest way to target all of Latin America’s audience. I don’t know if you guys have watched the… There’s a version online that was a fan-dubbed version of Deadpool 2, from Argentina.

ALEXIS: From Argentinian Spanish, right?

LARA: So good.

MELISA: And it’s just so funny. It’s full of Argentinian swear words and references. It went viral, and it still nowadays is like shared, so it kind of shows the impact that can have when you…

LARA: Yeah, the importance and how can you make the movie actually resonate with an entire audience. And you can actually, like, really, really have good amounts of people watching your content and having a good laugh, instead of this Latin American Spanish that the jokes were like… Meh…

ALEXIS: It’s an extra step in your market research. I mean, you’ve done your market research, you know where your movie or game or audiovisual content is gonna work, why don’t you use that research and…

MELISA: Absolutely. Yeah. And to connect a bit more with the audience. And that’s basically what you want when you want to translate or localize your content. And going back to video games, can you guys think of any examples of, like, video games that you played and how that translation worked?

LARA: Um, yeah. I mean, I have… Do you wanna go? Ah, you have your shirt with the game you’re going to talk about. That’s…

ALEXIS: You go.

LARA: Okay. Okay, I’ll go.

MELISA: You’re a patient person, Ale.

LARA: I remember… I don’t know if this is still going, but I remember playing a video game that was called Move or Die. It was such a funny game because, if you stop moving, you die. You have to keep moving.

ALEXIS: Literally, move or die.

LARA: Exactly. And it is actually localized to Argentinian Spanish, and it’s so fun, the voiceover is so good, and everything. I don’t know if they kept going with that because, you know, with the updates and everything, sometimes it’s…

MELISA: Yeah, challenging. Of course.

LARA: Yeah. It’s super challenging. But that’s so good. And another example that is not that good.

MELISA: It’s a bit controversial.

LARA: A bit controversial. It is Grim Fandango, because when you play Grim Fandango, it’s not localized, at least, in Latin American Spanish, it’s just in European Spanish. And they have this bad guy that he’s supposed to be from Argentina, and they hired…

ALEXIS: That accent is horrible.

MELISA: That is such a stereotype like for every… If any of you guys from Latin America are hearing this, you know that Argentinians are sometimes targeted as the bad guy.

LARA: Yeah. And the voice actor, he was from Spain, obviously, because he didn’t speak like an Argentinian person.

MELISA: He was like making up an accent.

LARA: Yeah, he was making up an accent. It was a little bit of a miss. To be honest with you, I didn’t like it, I felt offended. It was like…

ALEXIS: Could we say in their defense that the game was done like in 98 or something?

LARA: Of course.


ALEXIS: Because it’s a good game. It’s an oldie but goodie, you know? Old but gold.

LARA: Yeah, but that thing, it caught my attention. How can you detach yourself when you find something like that, that it actually kind of hurts your feelings. You’re like, ouch.

ALEXIS: I wonder if it landed the same way in different parts of the world.

LARA: Or maybe you’re gonna hear another Argentinian person talking wonderful stuff about this, but that is something that really bothered me. I mean, maybe there are other people that is bothered too by this same exact thing, so it’s just like, um, yeah.

MELISA: Yeah, and I think it’s just, I mean, what we’re talking about, if you want to connect, that was probably, you know, not their intention. They just wanted to maybe like make it sound a bit more like, you know, people from different Spanish speaking countries in this game, but, you know, if you don’t follow like certain, and, you know, just try to avoid… you wanna avoid like offending your audience. I mean, that’s basically… How about you, Ale?

ALEXIS: I gotta say Batman: Arkham Knight. To me, it was like watching a movie. And if you play the games in English, you have Kevin Conroy playing Batman. Rest in peace. He died just last year. You have Mark Hamill doing The Joker. I mean, so…

MELISA: Insane, yeah.

ALEXIS: It’s a high standard, so it delivers. It delivers what you expect from a game of that quality with those voice actors. But, at the same time, it’s like what we’ve been discussing, it just doesn’t hit right, you know? Because, again, it’s neutral.

MELISA: In Latin American Spanish.

ALEXIS: You have the “bastards,” “bastardos,” and we don’t say “bastardos,” you know? Things like that. And it’s like…

MELISA: It’s like it puts you off a little bit, right? When you see like a really bad guy using a word that you would never hear from a bad guy.

ALEXIS: That’s the thing. I mean…

MELISA: It’s even a little funny sometimes, like…

ALEXIS: It was good. It was incredibly done, but it still doesn’t cut it. I prefer to play it in English because those expressions sound more natural in that language, you know?

LARA: But I’m thinking, we have the opportunity to play in English because we all speak English and Spanish, we’re bilingual, right? But I really, really appreciate when they try to go with Latin American Spanish because I have little sisters and I have little brothers, and they don’t speak English. So being able to localize your game into this neutral Latin American Spanish, it’s like an accessibility door, you know? Because you’re making your game accessible not only for me, and maybe I don’t appreciate that much the Latin American Spanish, at least the dubbing, but the text part of the Latin American Spanish is great, I love it. But the dubbing sometimes sounds weird, but I love it for kids. I love it for kids, and I think that’s a super way to go when you have a video game and you have it localized into Spanish European and you want that same game to have like a really good, successful industry or audience in Latin America, it is not going to work, because we don’t feel connected with that Spanish, we don’t feel the same feeling, you know? When you’re playing. You don’t feel the immersion…

MELISA: You can feel confused sometimes. I mean, some things just sound very strange for us.

LARA: You have a quest, you have a mission and you can’t actually… you don’t understand what you’re trying to do.

ALEXIS: There’s a lot of cases where you don’t really know, ok, what’s this item? I need to check what the item is.

LARA: Yeah. Well, the other day I was playing a video game, I cannot actually remember the name, but it had this specific like paragraph for a quest or something, and I couldn’t understand. I was like, I have to change the language of the game to English to be able to do this quest, because I was stuck, you know?

MELISA: Yeah. And your first language is Spanish, which is kind of insane.

LARA: And my first language is Spanish! You know, I was reading in it European Spanish, and I had to change it to English to understand what this quest wanted me to do. I thought, like, no. You have to make your game into neutral Latin American Spanish.

ALEXIS: I had something happening to me, the same thing. I don’t remember what game in PlayStation 1 days, with a tutorial. I was stuck in a tutorial for like an hour or two, before Google was a thing. I mean, PlayStation 1 days, like 97, 98, I was a kid. And I was like, I don’t know what I have to do. And I had to call my dad, and what he did was, he switched off the game, he reset the console, he put it in English and tried to… he read it in English and told me, “You have to do this.”


ALEXIS: I don’t remember what it was, like going side by side with a car or something, but he had to turn the game in English to understand, because he didn’t understand either in Spanish.

LARA: Yeah, and I’m actually, like, imagine nowadays with everything being so fast and so instant, having to do that to a game, to go back, change the language, maybe reset the game because you have to start over…

ALEXIS: No, it’s unacceptable.

LARA: It’s just… It’s painful. It’s so painful because… Maybe if I was so, like, tired, had a long day and I just wanted to sit and play and chill, maybe I wouldn’t do it. Maybe I would just turn off my PC and say goodbye for tonight. That’s not my jam.

ALEXIS: Yeah, but that’s not the case when you’re growing up.

LARA: Yeah. But in that specific game, I really wanted to do this quest because I was so immersed and… Well, immersed, let’s just say I was playing, I was having fun.

MELISA: Yeah, you were connected.

LARA: I was having fun and I wanted to do this quest because I thought, “This is going to be so much fun.” And I couldn’t start because I didn’t understand.

ALEXIS: Yeah, nowadays, it’s unacceptable.

LARA: Yeah, nowadays, I think it’s like, no. I wouldn’t do that.

MELISA: Yeah, it’s not like what you want for a game, definitely. So, I mean, I think the point from everything that we’ve been talking is, like, you should really know your audience and know what impact you wanna create on those people, you know? If you want to reach Latin America, you can choose, you know, there’s…

LARA: You have the option.

MELISA: Yeah, you have that option. If you wanna go like the extra mile, you can even, you know, localize it to different variants of Spanish in Latin American countries, which would be great to see more. We would all love to see a bit more.

LARA: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, but I think that’s asking for a lot, because, yeah, nowadays, they only think of Spanish, “Ah, European Spanish.” I just want to bring up to the table that European Spanish is not the same as Latin American Spanish. So please, if you have a video game and you want to make it successful here, go with Latin American Spanish.

ALEXIS: Yeah, know your audience. And if you don’t know how to do it, find a company that can help you and do your research. There are many places where you can just research for free. Just go to Newzoo. I mean, that’s gonna be a game changer for sure. At least in you knowing more where to look.

LARA: Yeah, and it’s a common practice that most Latin Americans will understand, we will understand this Latin American neutral Spanish.

MELISA: And the important thing is, like you said, you’re reaching, you know, if you have a game for kids, you’re reaching that audience, they can play it. Even if it’s not the same, if they don’t connect the same as if it were localized to your country, you can still enjoy it. And I think that’s a great thing.

ALEXIS: And adults that don’t speak English.

MELISA: Yeah, for sure.

ALEXIS: We’re privileged we speak two languages, but there are many, many adults that don’t understand anything.

MELISA: So this is it for today. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. If you have any games that you played in Spanish or if you’re curious about Spanish variants, anything, let us know in your comments.

LARA: In the comments down below. Also, find our Discord channel there, too, so you can reach out to us. Thank you so much for watching.

ALEXIS: Thank you, everyone!

MELISA: Bye, everyone!

ALEXIS: Bye-bye!

Share this post

Add Your Heading Text Here