After Mandarin Chinese, Spanish is the world’s second most spoken mother tongue, with almost 500 million native speakers. This is mainly due to the immense geographical area occupied by the Spanish-speaking world and the high natural growth rates of the Ibero-American countries. In addition, due to the migratory flow between Latin America and the United States, the number of Spanish speakers there has increased at a dizzying speed, which has led to greater international interest in the Spanish language.
The lingua franca
However, demographics alone cannot be relied upon because, despite these data, English remains the lingua franca par excellence and Spanish is surpassed by other languages in cultural and economic importance. For example, French, which has only 77 million native speakers, enjoys great prestige as a language of culture and is the third most widely spoken foreign language. Arabic, the fifth most spoken native language in the world, is the second most spoken language in the business world.
Thus, in recent years there has been a slowdown in the growth of the number of non-native Spanish speakers worldwide, which may be related to a decline in the number of students who choose Spanish as a second language. Another fact to bear in mind is that it has been more than a decade since the last time a Spanish speaker won the Nobel Prize for Literature (Mario Vargas Llosa, in 2010). Therefore, it seems that it is not enough to wait for Spanish to magically become a language of international renown in all fields, but rather it is necessary to intensify policies that promote Spanish worldwide.
Spanish in literary translation
Something similar happens in the field of translation. Spanish is the second universal language in terms of number of native speakers, but it ranks fifth or sixth in the translation sector. The 1990s saw a real boom in the translation of Spanish literature, with authors such as Javier Marías, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Almudena Grandes and Antonio Muñoz Molina, among others. However, some authors and intellectuals believe that Spanish literature is currently in a decline, and that this is largely due to a lack of investment in the translation industry.
There are two ways in which translation rights for a book can be obtained. The first is related to private commercial transactions, which usually take place at major literary events, such as the Frankfurt Book Fair. The second path, which can (and should) benefit the first, includes incentives and public policies to support the translation industry.
Spanish as a universal language
In Spain, there is currently no official policy to promote the translation sector, unlike in other neighboring countries, such as France and Germany, which provide direct funding to publishers to cover the costs of promotion and translation. In addition, access to state aid and subsidies in our country has the disadvantage of involving a complicated bureaucratic framework, which ends up generating a feeling of apathy among the main stakeholders. Following the appointment of Spain as guest of honor at last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, it seems that a slight change began to take place, but the reality is that Spain has been rather unconcerned about the translation industry and that, nowadays, Spanish is not a priority language for translation, like English or French.
The experience of other countries has shown that translation plays a very important role in the process of cultural dissemination, so it is important that the Spanish authorities become aware of this and commit to public policies that benefit the translation sector, so that the international presence of our literature is not so dependent on private initiatives.
The cultural promotion through translation
In our company, FAST.txt, we are well aware that translation is indispensable for cultural promotion, especially in the field of literature. The translation of literary works has always been resorted to in order to achieve a better knowledge of other cultures and provide a greater intellectual wealth. At FAST.txt, one of our specialties is literary translation, as we have the best trained professionals in the field.
If you need to contract a book translation service of any kind, do not hesitate to contact us: Trust FAST.txt.
Carlos Sánchez Luis