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Are you tilting at windmills or just lost in translation?

The unknown melting pot of the Spanish-speaking world.



Abstract: According to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, over 493 million people speak Spanish as a native language. The most common misconception of many foreigners is that Spanish and Latin American cultures are homogenous, as many people think about English-speaking countries. The immigration numbers prove that the world is turning into a melting pot, changing the paradigm of how we think about cultures. The number could increase by a third if you consider Latinos with EU passports. Each Latin American country & Spain has a unique history, culture, and language specificities businesses cannot ignore. The differences come from each state's role in the Spanish Empire's history and the waves of migrations from Europe in the XIX and XX centuries. Language is one of the aspects of how different countries perceive everyday interactions.


Keywords: Spanish, culture, goals, objectives, benefits, Spain, Latin America, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela, organizational culture, value creation, goals, cross-cultural communication, communication, perspective, business, cultural strengths.


According to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, over 493 million people speak Spanish as a native language. The language of Cervantes is official in 22 countries, and when we add people who are learning this language, the number of Spanish speakers rises to almost 600 million. The most common misconception of many foreigners is that Spanish and Latin American cultures are homogenous, as many people think about English-speaking countries. The immigration numbers prove that the world is turning into a melting pot, changing the paradigm of how we think about cultures.


In the United States, over 57 million people speak Spanish as their native language. According to the United Nations, over 3 million foreigners with Latin American passports live in Spain. The number could increase by a third if you consider Latinos with EU passports. Each Latin American country & Spain has a unique history, culture, and language specificities businesses cannot ignore. The differences come from each state's role in the Spanish Empire's history and the waves of migrations from Europe in the XIX and XX centuries. Language is one of the aspects of how different countries perceive everyday interactions.


For instance, not everyone in the Spanish-speaking world uses the same forms of "you" in singular and formal. In Argentina, Uruguay, and some Central American countries, the "vos" form is widely used compared to the "tú" form. In all of the Latin American countries, the ¨you" form in the plural is "ustedes," which is both for formal and informal situations, whereas in Spain, "ustedes" is used for formal situations, and "vosotros" is for casual situations.


We can see how diverse these countries are considering the cultural dimensions of Individualism vs. Collectivism of 5 selected countries in Latin America (Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela) and Spain. Argentina & Spain, for instance, are, in comparison to their Spanish-speaking counterparts, the most individualistic countries. In other words, this means that their society portrays collectivistic traits, where teamwork and close relations are natural. Yet, individual perception counts more when it comes to some decision-making processes. This fact means collaboration is essential, and harmony & work-life balance of an individual are as important as the team spirit. Venezuela, Mexico, and Colombia are more collectivistic societies based on values and family bonds. Group decisions are taken collectively, not in individual interest. Teams within the work environment will be highly integrated & competitive, where personal ego will not be accepted. The teams will take full responsibility for a project as a whole entity without personal individual gain. Mixed with the Power Distance cultural dimension, we can see that groups in the three countries mentioned above often have strong identities tied to class & hierarchal distinctions. Argentina and Spain, in this context, are more moderate, as they believe in hierarchy, where centralization of power is accepted to give guidance and protection to the groups.


Another value Argentineans, Colombians, Mexicans, and Venezuelans share is the low value of the long-term orientation. These countries are highly normative and tied to traditions. Due to the constant political stagnation, citizens of these countries tend to save for the future. They live more here and now, which is not represented by Spaniards, who are more centered and balanced between traditional values & their overview for the future and planning.


When we talk about the 600 million population of the Spanish-speaking world, we cannot put everyone in one box, as they are heterogeneous, rich in language, traditions, and cultural aspects that are not that visible to the naked eye.

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