Language variants: understand differences in the same language

Find out why language variants are so important for us to understand differences in the same language

We know that different countries have the same language as their official language, such as Brazil and Portugal with Portuguese, the United States and the United Kingdom with English, Spain and Mexico with Spanish, among many other examples.

However, as opposed to what many people believe, linguistic variations can make all the difference when it comes to understanding the spoken and written languages of a given country.

The word “propina” in Brazil, for example, is linked to corruption, but in Portugal, it refers to college tuition fees.

Therefore, to get more detailed information on language variants, follow the content below.

What are variations in the same language?

When it comes to variations of the same language, you have to take something into account: it is not because two or more countries speak the same language that some words in their vocabulary will have identical meanings or even the same pronunciation.

Languages are alive – they aren’t a closed and unchangeable system – and, therefore, several changes in meaning are observed, both in writing and other forms.

Also, you have to keep in mind that the differences in a language are extremely important for their respective countries, mainly because they reinforce the cultural heritage of the language spoken by their people.

Language variants take place on the streets, at work, in lectures, in schools, in universities, in conversations with friends from other countries, etc. Anyway, languages are always in motion.

Thus, it is possible to say that linguistic variations have the power to directly interfere with the understanding of a language.

Language variants: learn some of the most common ones

How many times has a Brazilian said a word in a certain way and was surprised by someone saying, “but did you know that in Portugal it is different?” or something like that?

That happens, and not just with pronunciation, but with the meaning of words.

With that in mind, we’ve listed below some of the most well-known variations of some languages. Check them out:

Brazilian Portuguese vs. European Portuguese

Several words in European Portuguese have completely different meanings in Brazil.

Apelido”, for example, means sobrenome”. Also, “autocarros” means “ônibus”. When a Brazilian visits a “bairro” in a town in Portugal, he will be visiting a so-called “freguesia”.

And there’s more: “trens” are known as “comboios”, “office boys” are called “estafetas”, “crianças” are “miúdos” in Portugal, among many other variations.

Spanish from Spain vs. Spanish from Latin American countries

The first difference is quite clear because it’s in the name: Spanish spoken in Spain is called European Spanish, while Spanish spoken in Latin American countries is known as Latin Spanish.

Some variants of the Spanish language are: a computer, in Spain, is called  “ordenador”, but in most Latin countries, it is known as “computadora”. Cars in the European country are known as “coche”, but are called “auto“ or “carro” in Latin American countries.

Anyone interested in living in a Spanish-speaking country will not pay a rent, but an “alquiler” in Spain, a “renta” in Mexico and Chile, or an “arriendo“ in Colombia, in addition to so many other language variations.

American English vs. British English

As far as vocabulary is concerned, the differences between US English and UK English are also quite interesting.

It’s “TV program” in the United States, but “TV programme” in the United Kingdom. It’s “closet” in the US, but “wardrobe“ in British countries.

If someone is going to buy a pair of pants at a store in the United States, they will look for “pants”, but if that happens in the United Kingdom, they will look for “trousers”. Remember these are just a few examples of language variations from one country to another. There are many other variants in English.

How language variations can influence translation?

Of course, there are some basic rules for translating a text, but translation is a quite comprehensive task and it cannot be limited to just a few rules.

According to Susan Bassnett, “translation involves far more than replacement of lexical and grammatical items between languages”, i.e., translation is not a mere reproduction of a text in another language.

The purpose of translation is to adapt a text to the needs of a given language and a specific culture.

Its purpose is that the final content appears to have been originally written in the language it is being translated into. In other words, it needs to sound natural to your target audience.

Thus, a little detail can make all the difference in the meaning of a sentence. Translators need to be very attentive at all times.

Skills required for a professional translator

Translation is a job that requires a range of linguistic and cultural knowledge on the part of the translator, in addition to a lot of dedication, of course.

Therefore, it is possible to say that translators pursuing a professional career are seen as producers of meaning, truly representing the author and the texts they are translating.

Consequently, translators must be familiar with the cultural environment, the behavioral patterns, and the value systems that characterize the cultures of the languages involved.

It is also important to have a complete understanding of the texts in the source language and their correct reproduction in the target language. Translators must use style and register that are appropriate to the purpose of the text being translated.

Therefore, sworn translation or any other type of translation is not an easy task. Different language variations are a good example.

Professional translators should have varied knowledge and, above all, recognize how rich language variations are, in addition to a country’s people and culture.

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