América ≠ America

The original Spanish and Portuguese texts read as follows (bold print is mine):

En la actualidad, con muy contadas excepciones, cualquier estudio universitario puede ser cursado en Andalucía. Todas las universidades participan en los diversos programas de la CE, tanto de investigación como de movilidad estudiantil, y sostienen amplias relaciones internacionales con especial proyección en América y en el área mediterránea fuera de las fronteras comunitarias. 

Será importante ter presente que a missão da Igreja que está na América, cujo objetivo é a autêntica libertação do homem contemporâneo […] submetido a duras opressões e ansioso pela liberdade, não somente estende-se aos países menos desenvolvidos do Centro e do Sul do Continente, mas compreende também a área geográfica dos países mais desenvolvidos no Norte, onde nascem novas formas de pobreza e de escravidão a partir do próprio fenômeno do desenvolvimento industrial e tecnológico […]

Should América be translated as “America” in the above texts? The short answer is no.

America has different connotations for residents, authors, politicians, and the like. To understand what these connotations are, an editor or a translator would have to consider context. Both excerpts above refer to Andalusia (an independent area in Spain), the Mediterranean, as well as Central and South America. It would not make sense to convey América as America, since the two appellations refer to different geographical realities.

Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking readers alike think of América as a continent (made up of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, and others). The appellation commonly used in both languages is América Latina (Amérique latine in French). English-speaking readers equate America to the United States of America (the country). It would therefore be a mistake to translate América as America.

If Spanish or Portuguese authors wanted to refer to the United States of America, they would normally write Estados Unidos de / da AméricaDe is the preposition to link Estados Unidos to América in Spanish; in Portuguese, the preposition is da.

President Barack Obama and personalities such as Phillip McGraw, Dr. Oz, Oprah Winfrey, and Anderson Cooper often mention “America” in public announcements or presidential messages. Does either individual refer to Latin America when talking about America? No. They’re referring to the United States (of America), their country and inhabitants. If they wanted to make mention of Latin America, they would likely name the country or countries in question.

In closing, the appellation “The Americas” refers to North, Central, and South America. These Americas are continents, not countries. The same is true in French, Spanish, and Portuguese—Les Amériques, las Américas, as Américas, respectively.


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