Microsoft's approach to “Universal” or “Neutral” Spanish

Carefully choosing Spanish words so that the resulting text is “Neutral” or “Universal” and is acceptable (i.e. not identifiable as written for another regional market) throughout the Spanish-speaking world, is a significant technique for reducing localization costs by eliminating the need to produce additional versions of software for each Spanish-speaking country. “Latin American Spanish” takes the same approach but attempts only to be acceptable within the Americas.

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The concepts of “Universal” or “Neutral” Spanish and particularly Latin American Spanish (es-americas) are being discussed on the following mail lists:

Latin American Spanish, proposed to have a code es-americas, would represent Spanish text that is considered acceptable (not appear to be of foreign authorship) in all of Latin America. I.E. It could be treated as any of: es-AR, es-BO, es-CL, es-CO, es-CR, es-CU, es-DO, es-EC, es-FK, es-GT, es-HN, es-MX, es-NI, es-PA, es-PE, es-PR, es-PY, es-SV, es-UY, es-VE. A recent version of the proposed registration is at

Microsoft was mentioned as a software vendor that does this. It seems that Microsoft attempts to create text that is “Universal” and is acceptable in both Spain (es-ES) and the Americas. The translation of a presentation below describes their approach to selecting terminology.

Please send comments on the contents of this page to the lists.

Caveat emptor- We are providing this information to assist the discussions about a language code (es-americas) proposed to be registered for Latin American Spanish. This page contains a translation of the file found on the web. We make no claims of the file's accuracy or about Microsoft's actual processes and it is possible we are missing context important to the interpretation of the slides.

Neutral Spanish in the IT environment: Vocabulary Selection

The following information is from the powerpoint presentation Neutral Spanish in the IT environment: Vocabulary Selection by Avelino López García, Region Manager (IQA), Microsoft Ireland at
The powerpoint is in Spanish. Patrice Martin of Magellan Localization provided the translation below to English for this page. Tex made a few minor edits for readability and created the HTML file.

Here are some related resources.

Neutral Spanish in the IT environment: Vocabulary Selection.

Avelino López García, Region Manager (IQA), Microsoft Ireland

Presentation Sections


IQA (International Quality Assurance)

“Neutral Spanish” concept

Vocabulary Selection: Terminology Selection 1

Terminology Selection 2

Linguistic Norms and Innovation 1

Linguistic Norms and Innovation 2

Selection between two variants 1

Selection between two variants 2

If there's no word acceptable in all regions:

Selection between two variants 3

Summary & Questions


Thank you very much

Related Resources

There is a related article by Patrice Martin of Magellan Localization titled "The Quest for El Dorado: A Single Spanish for All" (See Multilingual Computing back issues).

The following URLs, provided by Toni Rovira of may also be useful. They are in Spanish. Toni also provided summaries in English.

Toni Rovira of graciously provided the following English summaries of the contents of these Spanish sites.

400 million people speak Spanish as their native language. Main problems today: bad usage in the mass media, English influence, and gaps in technical vocabulary, particularly in computer science. Most regional variations are minimal and have to do with vocabulary; enough though to give the impression that a given material is “done for another country” and annoy some users. Some typical examples ("computadora" vs "ordenador", "reporte" vs "informe", separator for decimals and thousands in Mexico, etc). Not true though that it¹s all about two different dialects: European and American. Microsoft uses one standard Spanish, valid for Spain, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, etc.

The author doesn’t see any linguistic reason to differentiate between European and American Spanish. If England and the US are, quoting Bernard Shaw, two countries separated by the same language, this paradox doesn’t apply between Spain and Latin America. Practically every linguistic peculiarity found in America is also found in some area of Spain today, and certainly in the "golden" literature of the 16-17th centuries. Spanish is surprisingly homogeneous. Also, the so-called Atlantic Spanish (phonetically different) is not spoken in America only but also in southern Spain and the Canary islands, while the Castilian Spanish is also spoken in certain areas of Central and South America. Nothing to do with American vs European English or Portuguese.

Spanish speakers usually understand words that they listen for the first time in a different country. Why? Because these words share the same “chromosomes”. That’s the basis to determine that these 400 million people in 21 countries speak the same language, the author says. Lots of nice examples. It used to be an imperative to remove regional terms when writing “correct” Spanish, but the tendency is to respect them, since their meaning is clear and they’re now seen as a richness, not a “threat”.

About the possibility that lots of “Americanisms” might be included in the next revision of the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (DRAE). An important step towards acknowledging the plurality of the language and the respect for the American forms. Why should Spaniards decide that Mexicans must write "Méjico" and not "México"?

The last 3 url’s illustrate the situation in some specific countries.

Argentina, the child of two civilizations: one Spanish, European, cultivated, the other native American.

About the regional and social differences inside Chile.

A defense of the linguistic variations in Puerto Rico and Venezuela.