We recently completed a website that challenged us to find the perfect pan-Latin American Spanish term. We usually recommend a client pick their main market if they do not have a budget to localize into different regions.
Unfortunately, this was the first time they sold into Spanish markets and the US Hispanic market was given as their main target. Our research brought forward some very interesting facts we’d like to share with you regarding the word: BANANA!
The banana fruit is known by the following names in the new Latin American priority markets:
México = plátano | Chile = plátano | Argentina = banana.
It also receives other names in other Latin American countries, such as guineo, banano and cambur.
The client had made the decision to use Banano, but we proposed 2 scenarios, since Mexican Spanish is predominant for use in the U.S.
SCENARIO 1: BANANA, SAME AS IN ENGLISH
- The client has consistently used the Spanish term ‘banana’ in their website, and most probably in their general marketing materials and internal documentation. It would be very impractical and confusing to attempt to change this long-established Spanish term now that Mexico and Chile are priority markets.
- Nearly every Spanish speaker in the Americas will understand the term ‘banana’ for the fruit, even though their main term may be plátano, guineo, banano or cambur. (1)
SCENARIO 2: BANANA = PLÁTANO
- ‘Plátano’ is the main Spanish term for the banana fruit in Mexico, Chile, Peru, Spain, and parts of Cuba. However, it also has other meanings —such as plantain and the banana plant— depending on the Latin American country, especially Central America. Also, ‘plátano’ in Argentina refers to a shade tree totally unrelated to banana. In my opinion, the use of ‘plátano’ for banana would create considerable confusion and was therefore not advisable.
Plantains are virtually unknown in Argentina, so they don’t have a name for it. The Spanish term varies considerably depending on the country. For U.S. Spanish we used ‘plátano macho’, the main term used in Mexico; it is appropriately descriptive and helps to distinguish it from the sweet banana fruit.
(1) The wordreference.com forum, with opinions by translators from nearly all Spanish-speaking countries, is particularly insightful in this regard.