I confess that I’ve been avoiding some “estadounidismos” in my own work

While I am quick to affirm that I live in a Spanish-speaking country and to embrace the diversity and characteristics of U.S. Spanish, I have been slow to adopt certain estadounidismos in my bilingual communications work. I recently had the privilege of appearing as a guest on the podcast Entre Dos to discuss what it means when we say the U.S. is a Spanish-speaking country, and it has inspired me to accept some of the estadounidismos that I have been resisting. That resistance comes in part from being a native English speaker, because there is an underlying fear that any term or phrase that demonstrates the influence of English will be interpreted as a lack of in-depth knowledge of the Spanish language.

by flickr user Paul Sableman

However, as I learned from Leticia Molinero, a translator and member of the Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española whom I interviewed for my podcast, my main focus should not be on my own knowledge, but rather on the clarity of the message for my target audience.

To be clear, I’ve always used a core group of estadounidismos that never caused me to hesitate. Here are some examples:

estadounidismo alternate Spanish word English translation
departamento ministerio department (government agency)
bus autobús bus
posición puesto position (job/employment)

There are a few (or perhaps several) others that I have heard and read often, but I have been wary of using them myself to avoid giving the impression that I was ignorant of the alternate term(s). For example:

estadounidismo alternate Spanish word English translation
registrarse inscribirse register (to sign up/enroll)
aplicar solicitar apply (to fill out an application)
rentar alquilar rent (to temporarily lease)

There are still more words that are perceived, positively or neutrally, as being unique to the U.S. or, negatively, as Spanglish. These terms, however, are used in countries throughout the Spanish-speaking world, not just the U.S. Some examples are:

Spanish word English translation
parquear/parqueo park (to park a car)/parking
tráiler trailer (movie clip)
casual casual (informal)

Molinero’s nonprofit organization, Research Institute of United States Spanish, is working on an empirical study to determine which estadounidismos are most commonly understood by Spanish-speaking audiences here in the U.S. In the meantime, I am going to make a concerted effort to be more open to using a wider range of estadounidismos in my work, for the sake of my clients and of the people who could benefit from clearer communication in Spanish.

Published by Emily Hunsberger

Observer of Spanish-speaking culture in the U.S. Listen to some of my conversations about it at www.tertuliapodcast.com.