The Associated Press Spanish Language Stylebook

by Tyson on Thursday, November 29, 2012

Logo of the AP (Associated Press)

The Associated Press (AP) has recently launched their first Spanish language stylebook, in an ambitious effort to standardize universal Spanish language usage for journalists around the world. The American news agency, which boldly claims that over half the world’s population sees its news every day, hopes their book will promote correct and consistent use of Spanish in the international media and avoid regionalisms that often cause confusion.

The AP’s English version of the stylebook was first introduced in 1953 and has since been considered one of the most important reference guides for journalists communicating in that language. The goal of both the English and now the Spanish versions is to help those responsible for creating news pieces use language in a way that is understood by the widest range of people possible.   

The AP held a panel discussion on Nov. 19th to officially mark the launch of the stylebook, where Spanish-language journalists talked about the need for the book and issues regarding its making, such as deciding which English loan words and new technology jargon to accept and which not to. Interestingly, the book already includes entries of new words that The Spanish Royal Academy (RAE) announced will appear in next year’s RAE dictionary, such as tuitear (to correspond on twitter) and tableta (a digital tablet). The RAE, traditionally reluctant to accept new words into their dictionary, is often accused of considering only Spanish spoken in the Castilian region of Spain when stipulating their own official language standards. It’s not clear how the conservative RAE’s royal preservers of proper Castilian feel about the AP’s stylebook, which includes a liberal helping of estadunidismos like picop for pick-up truck. It also suggests spelling CD ROM, cederrón. The AP’s manual however, purposely omits English loan words that could cause false-friendly confusion: carpeta for the English carpet (carpeta means folder in Spanish) or parada for the English parade (parada usually means a stop, like for a bus or a train), etc.

Perhaps the most engaging point of the panel discussion was the delicate topic of words used to describe people with unlawful resident status in a country, words such as indocumentado and inmigrante illegal. The AP suggests using the term illegal immigrant, but encourages journalists to use it with caution. Should children, for example, growing up in the U.S., whose parents brought them into the United States under illegal conditions, be labeled as illegal immigrants? Associated Press standard editor Thomas J. Kent doesn’t think so. He stresses the importance of using more precise terms to describe individual situations regarding legal status. Not only insensitive, words such as undocumented are usually inaccurate, as most of the people described as such do have documents in their own countries. Many major Spanish-language publications however prefer "undocumented" over "illegal immigrant". Defining a person as an illegal immigrant seems to suggest that the person’s existence is somehow against the law, not just his or her actions. Huffington Post Voces for example, carries AP Spanish language news pieces, but routinely substitutes the term inmigrante illegal for indocumentado.

The book is only available online, so that editors can update its content as needed –it offers standardized translations of new terms from current events such as suspension temporal de deportaciones for the recent “deferred action” policy. The current edition contains 3,500 entries of words and has special chapters on common press-topic vocabulary such as entertainment, arts and sports. For now, only AP Spanish news service clients can access its content. Beginning early next year however, anyone will be able to subscribe to the online guide for $26. A group of 10 people can subscribe for $210 a year. The more users that make up a group, the more economical the cost. The subscription allows users to take notes in the margins next to words, and the group subscription allows all users to view the notes. Subscribers can also ask questions to the editor and audio features allow users to hear standard pronunciations of words.

 

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Keywords: associated press,spanish language,use of spanish,castilian,spanish journalism

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