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HR Benefit Translations for Puerto Rico

HR Benefit Translations for Puerto Rico

We regularly provide HR Benefit Translations into Spanish for our HR Consultants with clients that have offices around the entire United States. Translating into Spanish for the United States is always a bit of a compromise because there are many different dialects of Spanish used throughout the United States due to the diversity of immigrants coming from different Spanish speaking regions. It would be cost prohibitive to translate for each state individually based on the most prominent Spanish dialects that are spoken. Therefore, most programs are translated into Spanish for the United States (Spanish for US or ESUS). However, one particular market that stands out in HR Benefit Translations is Puerto Rico (Spanish for PR or ESPR). Because of the proximity and political status, Puerto Rico is often seen as “another part” of the United States. But you would be wrong to think if you could use your ESUS materials for the Puerto Rico market.

Spanish for the United States is not Spanish for Puerto Rico

Spanish for the United States, while well-established, is an ever-evolving language. Most of the origin of the Spanish language in the United States is rooted in Mexican Spanish. However, immigrants from other origin groups also are of influence in different regions (see a graphic on U.S. Hispanic Origin Groups by population).  And the English language proficiency among Hispanics of different origin varies as well. Therefore, we work with US-based professional subject matter experts with various linguistic backgrounds using Spanish terminology that is widely used in the United States. To enhance comprehension, we also look for any existing language already being used by the company and their employees and add that to our Translation Memory assets. And, as we have already established in our research, healthcare benefit and insurance related terminology tends to be ambiguous at best in cases where various terms are used by different organizations for the same concept (see our study on Healthcare Terminology). Therefore, we typically work with regular teams of translators and with well-established Terminology Databases (read about Terminology Management).  If you need to build a business case for senior leadership on why you should translate open enrollment and benefit material for employees, use our reasons and metrics that we have pulled out.

Image of ESPR shaped like the Puerto Rico island to exemplify HR Benefit Translations

Spanish for Puerto Rico (ESPR shaped here by the contours of the island) is a Spanish language on its own, shaped by history, and continues to be the official language (along with English) of Puerto Rico.

Like so many other Spanish speaking countries, Puerto Rico’s history and cultural background has shaped the Spanish language to make it quite different from other countries. And while Puerto Rico certainly influences certain dialects in the United States (mostly on the east coast), you’ll likely never see Puerto Rico specific terminology being used in materials that were created for the continental U.S.

Spanish Terminology for Puerto Rico 

A document that does not “read” ESPR is often due to terminology that does not match the typical use in Puerto Rico. It unnecessarily separates the reader from the materials and may cast doubt or mistrust. Terminology differences can also confuse readers. Sometimes, a term can mean something more ambiguous than a specific term that is used in Puerto Rico. Especially when it comes to employee benefits, being specific matters when big life decisions are at stake. A few terminology examples:

  • Taxes are often referenced in Spanish as “impuestos” in the US. In PR, when referring to income taxes, we use “contribuciones sobre ingresos” or “contribuciones” for short (but not for other kinds of taxes). In Mexico, for instance (and with a much larger influence on US Spanish), it is “impuesto sobre la renta”.
  • Filing status in Puerto Rico uses the word “estatus” (“Estatus de radicación”). The word is associated with a popular political phrase from the 1940s and still used today. Someone campaigning on the phrase “El estatus no está en issue” meant to tell voters before an election that they could vote for the person without supporting the party’s status position. All political parties in PR are primarily defined by the political status they support: statehood, commonwealth or independence.
  • It’s helpful to know what terminology the Puerto Rico Commissioner of Insurance tends to approve. For instance, the term “cobertura” and “cubierta” are both used in the PR for coverage, but we prefer “cobertura” as it does not lend itself to ambiguity. And in reviewing many documents for the Commissioner of Insurance, they tend to agree with its use.

Puerto Rico Employment Law

Puerto Rico law, though based in a Civil Code that traces its origins to Spain, has been strongly influenced by US common law since 1898. This hybrid status introduces terms and concepts that do not exist in other Spanish-speaking countries. For instance:

  • “Estate” is rendered as “patrimonio” for ESUS and other Spanish variants, whereas technically it’s “caudal relicto” in PR (or “herencia” in some cases). An important reason for the differences is that Puerto Rican law, has been strongly influenced by US common law since 1898. This hybrid status introduces terms and concepts that do not exist in other Spanish-speaking countries, besides the natural tendency of languages to drift due to isolation, both under Spain, when it was basically a military outpost, and under the US, which tried – and failed – to make Puerto Ricans abandon Spanish in the early 20th century.
  • In Puerto Rico, a pension is a “bien ganancial” (community property) and the spouse has to consent in order for the benefits to be given to another person. Therefore, statements regarding pension benefits that are granted to a beneficiary automatically includes the spouse. When referring to beneficiaries as a “third party”, it is not automatically assumed that the spouse consented to release those benefits to someone else.

What can you do if you need both ESPR and ESUS, but on a limited budget?

Typically, we only work on one or the other language variant. However, if you need both Spanish for the United States and Puerto Rico and if your budget does not allow to provide separate materials, at least have your ESUS materials reviewed to ensure there is nothing that:

  • Contradicts Puerto Rico’s Employment Law
  • Contains terminology that could be confusing or non-existent in Puerto Rico.

And when you do find materials that may require modification, either add in an exception for Puerto Rico or consider a larger investment into the Puerto Rico market by looking at your translation ROI. One thing is for sure: no matter what translation strategy you use, none of it makes sense if you don’t use the translation talent with the right background.

Language Solutions specializes in HR Benefit Translations into Spanish for Puerto Rico

Language Solutions specializes in HR Benefit Communications. One main success factor in HR is our talent. Our translation teams are some of our highest skilled professionals in the industry. One of our insurance experts was responsible for standardizing terminology back when the insurance industry just started out creating materials in Spanish that had to be approved by several states. Read her blog about the Cuban culture here.

Another success factor in HR translations is that we work with regular teams backed by skilled project management. Often, HR Benefit Translations involve working with challenging file formats that are out of context (see example of translating Conditional Statements for Puerto Rico or our case study on translating a Pension Benefit Portal for Puerto Rico). Consistency between our Project Management and Translation Talent helps us to work more efficiently and effectively towards the end result.

With our combined specialization in HR Benefit Communications and Healthcare Translations, we have the expertise to deliver on the communications you can trust.

Let us handle your HR Benefit Translations into Spanish for Puerto Rico or the United States. We also work regularly in other high demand languages for the United States like Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese as well as European languages.