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Hiring Professionals: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Translation

As businesses grow and begin to expand internationally, the needs of an organization must change and adapt to new and often very different markets. This more often than not means adapting materials into new languages to better communicate with potential customers. In this day and age, even if businesses are simply expanding to encompass more of the US market, the Spanish language in particular is incredibly important in this endeavor. There are more Spanish-speakers in North America than in Spain, totaling a whopping 52.6 million speakers.

When taking the leap and translating your materials into new languages, it’s important to be sure your business is able to continue to communicate a clear, concise message that maintains the integrity of the company, and that transcends linguistic boundaries. This is the primary focus of the Spanish with Style team assigned to each translation project we undertake,

When it comes time to translate documents or marketing materials, it can be tempting to use methods that seem cheap and easy. Software-based translators such as Google translate are tempting because they work instantaneously.  Alternatively, perhaps you have a friend or family member who speaks Spanish, for example. Although there are often budget concerns, and using a non-professional method of translation can seem quick and easy, there are several pervasive reasons why using a professional translator is very important. The key points are summarized here, and explained later:

  • Spanish Language and Translation Accuracy. Only a professional can know the nuances of the language and ensure that the translation works in the same context as the source document.
  • Quality of the Translated Text. Your message is very important and must use a “best practice” approach to translation of English to Spanish.
  • Control of the Hispanic Communications Project. Be certain your translation project will deliver your message to the proper target audience and knowing the right questions to ask when beginning your project.

Spanish Language and Translation Accuracy.

Getting your message across in the manner in which it was intended to be understood is crucial for success. Online software-based translators such as Google translate can be useful when a general meaning of a word or phrase needs to be deciphered quickly, but Google translate and services like it are not known for their accuracy.  A professional translator who specializes in Spanish translation and copy editing will be able to accurately capture the nuances and colloquialisms, guaranteeing that your message comes across loud and clear, and in a consistent and professional voice.

Similarly, you might have a friend, family member or member of staff who speaks both Spanish and English fluently. While this is an amazing asset to have for any on-the-fly questions or clarifications, there are still clear benefits to hiring a Spanish translation and copy editing professional. There is more to translating than fluency. A Spanish language expert  is trained to look out for common language pitfalls as well as common cultural misunderstandings, and able to seamlessly convey your message in an accurate and natural way that can be easily understood by your target audience.

Quality of the Translated Text.

The quality of translation is another very important point to consider. Think about who you’ve selected to perform specific tasks for your organization or company in the past. When you needed a new logo or marketing materials designed, did you hire a graphic designer? When you needed a redesign for your website, did you consult with an IT specialist?

Translating isn’t just about changing a document from one language to another. The highly specific skills involved in translation also include proofreading, editing, copy editing and creative writing. Professional translators and copy editors have years of training and experience not just in translation, but often in other fields such as journalism, marketing and linguistics – all of which lend the experience necessary to ensure you are getting the highest quality professionally written document, with the original message and intent well preserved. Also, generally accepted best practices of professional Spanish translation and copy editing is a three step process. This means that your document is examined by three separate professionals: a translator, an editor and a proofreader who will more often than not have varied social, cultural and technical experiences throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

Additionally, depending on the specific subject matter of your project, it is important your translator have the particular language and vocabulary skills you require. For example, many English language legal documents are difficult for even native English speakers to understand. By hiring a professional who is specialized in that niche, you can be confident your documents will be translated in an accurate and professional manner. Similarly if you are translating a medical text or a scientific or technical document, hiring a professional with a solid understanding of both the language and the source material ensures the translated document is clear, concise and accurate, and that the appropriate industry specific terms are used correctly.

Professional Spanish translation and copy editors are trained to understand the industry and the cultural needs and wants of the target market. Professionals are able to adapt your unique company message and account for cultural differences while maintaining a consistent voice and keeping in line with your company culture and values.

Control of the Hispanic Communications Project.

Another important aspect you gain when choosing a professional is the element of control. By hiring a person instead of using a software-based translation service, for example, you are able to get to know your translator and have them understand your company’s values, mission statement, goals and company culture. This is advantageous as it allows you to be certain your company’s personality is being communicated in a clear and consistent voice across all marketing materials in both English and Spanish.

Additionally, hiring a professional allows you to be in contact with your translator throughout the project, ensuring that the specific requirements are adhered to, any questions you may have along the way are answered and deadlines are met.

In summary, translation is more than simply a question of changing words from one language to another, or even simply following syntax and grammatical rules. Proper translation must also take into consideration history, culture and social dynamics of the target audience in order to communicate effectively. Professional translation and copy editing services guarantee your message is construed in a clear and consistent voice across both languages, giving you peace of mind your materials are accurate and professional.

Not to be Underestimated: The Global Rise of the Spanish Language

The increasing interconnectedness of the world is undeniable, both socially and economically. The internet now permeates every corner of the globe and social media connects people from all walks of life, cutting across linguistic and geographical boundaries with ease. Online news sources from virtually every country are accessible in multiple languages and viral videos know no bounds. In short, we can now easily reach audiences in corners of the world we couldn’t have previously conceived of just 20 years ago and we can do it in seconds.

This means that more than ever businesses are having to tailor their marketing materials, value statements and goals in order for their message to reach a culturally, socially and of course linguistically diverse audience. For both international businesses and in particular companies based out of the USA, being able to communicate to potential customers in Spanish is an asset that cannot be overlooked.

Just how important is it to consider Spanish language when conducting business? Here are some of the points we will discuss:

  • Domestically: Today there are more Spanish speakers in the USA than in Spain, and they have significant economic buying power.
  • Internationally: Currently, Spanish is the second most spoken language worldwide and the fastest growing language in the American market.
  • Economically: Not only are Spanish speakers in the USA quickly becoming an economic powerhouse, but many of today’s international emerging markets are Spanish speaking.

The Rise of the Spanish Language in the USA

Even right here at home in the USA, the importance of catering to a bilingual audience should not be undervalued. In fact, there are more Spanish-speakers currently in the USA than in Spain, totaling a whopping 52.6 million. To put this into perspective, this means that one out of every 6 people currently residing in the USA is a Spanish-speaker and these figures don’t even include the estimated 9.7 million additional undocumented Spanish-speakers thought to be also residing in the USA. This makes the domestic Spanish-speaking market incredibly important. In fact, the USA has the second highest population of Spanish-speakers in the world, second only to Mexico’s vast population of 122 million. In terms of investing for the future, the trajectory of the Hispanic population is forecasted to increase substantially, with some estimating up to a 150% increase by 2050. An increase such as this would lead the US Hispanic population to surpass even Mexico in number of Spanish-speakers, becoming host to the largest Hispanic population in the world.

Simply being able to speak Spanish aside, the American Hispanic population also forms an incredibly important and powerful segment of the economy and should not be overlooked in this regard. According to the consumer analyst company Nielsen, Hispanics in the USA alone currently have spending power of about 1.4 trillion dollars.

The importance of including all American residents in long term strategic business plans, marketing initiatives and communication strategies can not be underestimated. However, in order to reach this important and populous Hispanic audience, it is important that you speak their language. Investing in professional Spanish translation and copyediting is key, as translation is far more complex than swapping around English and Spanish words. It is important to understand the unique cultural, linguistic and social situations experienced by Spanish-speakers that exist globally, but also within the English speaking cultural and linguistic framework of the USA. To reach out successfully to the Hispanic segment of the population, the first step is to hire a professional translator who can not only translate materials into Spanish, but who can ensure the intended message of your materials is preserved while simultaneously being adapted to account for linguistic or cultural subtleties.

Spanish Language on a Global Scale

The importance of the Spanish language is not limited to the USA. In fact, globally, it is the second most spoken language worldwide, bested only by Chinese- although Spanish is far more widely spoken geographically speaking. There are absolutely more Spanish-speakers worldwide than English speakers, about 8 million more so.  In a 2015 study conducted by the Instituto Cervantes, a non-profit devoted to the Spanish language based of out Spain, there are a total of 470 million native Spanish-speakers worldwide. Include the number of people who have Spanish as a second language and this number jumps to 559 million. Spanish is also one of the most popular languages learned as a second language. Cervantes estimates there are an additional 21 million individuals currently studying Spanish. The same study also notes that while Chinese, Spanish and English are currently the top three most widely spoken languages, both English and Chinese are on the decrease while Spanish is on the rise. This suggests that investing in Spanish communications is a wise long-term investment.

Economically speaking, Spanish-speakers are also a rising powerhouse. There are many emerging markets in Latin America, in particular Chile, Panama and Costa Rica who are seeing a marked increase in the size and stability of the middle class. Additionally, Mexico is now part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and according to Forbes, 2 out of the top 5 richest people in the world are Spanish-speakers.

Tailoring your message to take into account millions of Spanish-speakers has the potential to be economically advantageous. According to the Instituto Cervantes, economically speaking, the 21 countries who list Spanish as one of their official languages tend to prefer economic trade with linguistically similar trading partners. While the USA does not include itself as one of the 21 countries with Spanish as its official language, it is in a unique position in the world to capitalize on this trend. With so many Spanish-speakers living in the USA, there is no reason why American businesses should not be able to capitalize on this trend.

Our Spanish with Style team is dedicated to ensuring the continuity of your message while simultaneously adapting it to your target Spanish speaking audience. The economic opportunities in the Spanish speaking world, both inside and outside the USA, are tremendous. All it takes is to reach out to the global Spanish-speaking community is to speak their language. When considering your translation needs, hiring Spanish language experts should be top priority. Not only are they trained in Spanish translation and copy editing, but they understand the vast geographic, cultural and linguistic differences that exist between both English and Spanish-speakers, but also among the diverse Spanish-speaking communities worldwide.

Robots Can’t Speak Spanish: The Problem with Software-Based Translation

When a business or individual comes across material that needs to be translated, it can be be tempting to simply type it into Google translate, especially if the material seems short or simple.

It can seem so easy and convenient to utilize these software-based translation services; after all, it’s very fast, very easy and very free. You simply input the text you need to be translated, and voila! You receive a translation almost instantaneously. How wrong could it go? Well, like with most things in life, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. In short, translation is so much more than simply changing words from one language to another.

Here are the key problems we will discuss:

  • Correct Grammar and Syntax. There are many cross-linguistic variables to consider when taking into account grammar and syntax and a preprogrammed algorithm is simply not equipped to spot them, let alone translate them correctly.
  • Determining Context. Similar words can have wildly different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. An automated translation service can easily misunderstand context and use the wrong word in translation
  • Personal Guarantee. A robot is not a person, and thus cannot personally guarantee the quality of its translation. A robot is not a Spanish language expert, and cannot be held accountable.

Uses for Software-Based Translation Services:

Google translate and other similar services do serve a purpose, and many of us have made great use of these fast and free services, however it’s utility is very limited.

If you are stuck on the meaning of a single word, then this service can be helpful, and will often list the various meanings a single word can have, allowing you to make a judgement call based on context. It can also be useful for determining the very general meaning of a short phrase and can be used in this way in a pinch.Basic translations where accuracy is not important, but rather a broad understanding of general meaning in needed quickly, Google translate and other software-based translation services like it, can be useful. For example, it can be useful when traveling. If you are in a foreign country and need to quickly to decipher a menu written in Spanish before ordering lunch, Google translate works well. In short, ascertaining the general meaning of a single word or short phrase in a hurry is ok, but it is a far cry from professional Spanish translation and copy editing.

Where Automated Translations Fails:

Lost in Translation: Grammar and Syntax

Differences in grammar rules and syntax can wreak havoc when attempting to rely on a software-based translation service. These robots rely on fixed algorithms and pre-programed dictionaries to perform translations and are not always able to successfully account for subtle linguistic differences.

For example, a major difference between the way sentences are correctly formed in English vs Spanish is in the use of double negatives. English grammar rules don’t generally allow for double negatives, and when a rare exception is made, or a double negative is used, the sentence ends up being a complicated web of meaning that ultimately ends up saying the opposite of what it would mean in Spanish. Take the English phrase “I don’t have nothing” for example. This phrase is grammatically awkward at best, but none the less sometimes used colloquially.Ultimately, however, the meaning of the sentence implies that the subject of the sentences does have something, by not having nothing. When both “I don’t have nothing” and “I have nothing” are translated through Google translate, they both are translated to Spanish as if they had the same meaning, “Yo no tengo nada”, which is I have nothing. This is incredibly problematic when you need to rely on your translated materials and cannot guarantee they are accurate.

Another potential linguistic pitfall you may run into when using Google translate and the like, is the difference in word order between English and Spanish. This linguistic difference runs the risk of causing confusion for these automated translation services. For example, in English the adjective comes before the noun, “the black cat”, while the Spanish translation, when translated word for word, would be “the cat black”. It’s true that in theory software-powered translation services should be able to determine the full meaning of the phrase and correct the word order, but this is not something you can rely on, especially if you are attempting to translate longer and more complicated texts. Using the wrong word order in professional documents or marketing materials comes across as careless and unprofessional.

Translation Accuracy: Determining Context

As I previously pointed out, many words in both English and Spanish can have multiple meanings, and there is no way to guarantee a software-powered program will be able to distinguish which is the appropriate word. The only way to know whether you mean finger-nails or nails for building, or if if you want to season your food or talk about your favorite season, is by context. Automated translation services have a limited capacity in this regard. This can be a very serious problem, as using the incorrect word looks clumsy and unprofessional at best, and at worst could even come across as offensive. There are many sites on the internet where people have curated thousands of examples of English translations gone wrong and that’s most likely not the attention you are seeking.

Another important example of where context matters greatly and nothing short of a personal touch during the translation process could possibly account for, is the use of metaphors, expressions, colloquialisms and slang. Metaphors and expressions in particular are couched in many years of cultural nuances that must be first unpacked in order to translate correctly. For example, let’s say your text included the popular English expression “letting the cat out of the bag”, meaning to divulge information that was meant to remain private. A professional Spanish language translator will take into account the true meaning of this phrase, while a software-based translation service such as Google translate will literally be saying to your reader that there was an actual cat that had been in a bag and has now been released.

Similarly, the use of slang can be quite problematic when relying on a robot to translate your text. Both English and Spanish are full of commonly used slang words that also vary greatly depending on your geographical location. (LINK TO  importance of targeting your translation to the geographic locale of your target Spanish-speaking audience BLOG). For example, if in your English text you are referring to something as “cool”, it is important to know firstly whether you mean cold or the more colloquial meaning expressing enthusiasm. Secondly, to maintain a consistent voice and be sure your text is being understood in the manner in which it was written, a culturally similar word to “cool” must be used. This could be bakan in Chilean Spanish or piola in Argentina. This is another reason why professional Spanish translation and copy editing services are important, a robot cannot determine your intended audience let alone tailor your message for maximum comprehension.

Personal Guarantee from a Spanish Language Expert

Once you receive a translation from an automated translation service, how can you be sure that it is correct? How much do you really trust a robot who translated your text in less than a second? Our Spanish with Style team is comprised of Spanish language experts who can guarantee that your message is translated correctly and professionally. Using a professional Spanish translation and copywriting service such as ours guarantees that the whole meaning of your text is translated in a clear, correct and professional manner. By using Spanish language experts, you are removing guesswork and uncertainty from your project and can be be confident in the end result.

Speaking Local: The Importance of Getting your Message Across

So you have decided to reach out to new, Spanish-speaking audiences to spread your message farther. In this day and age, this makes perfect sense. The Spanish-speaking population both worldwide and within the USA is increasing rapidly with many Latin American countries seeing strengthening economies and an increasingly large and stable middle class.  Now is most certainly the time to include Spanish-speakers in your long-term goals, marketing strategies and business plans.

First things first. When reaching out to a new Spanish-speaking audience, you must translate your message, marketing materials and documents so they can be understood in your intended audience’s native language. When deciding on a translation strategy, it is important to take into consideration one of the most common pitfalls of Spanish translation: to assume that all 470 million native Spanish-speakers are linguistically or culturally the same.

The Spanish-speaking community is one of the most diverse groups in the world, spanning across many geographical, cultural and even linguistic boundaries.

  • There are 21 countries with Spanish as an official language and many more who are host to large numbers of Spanish-speakers, including the USA and the Philippines. Geographically speaking, Latin America alone stretches from the US-Mexico border to Antarctica and of course there is their European Spanish counterpart, Spain.
  • Subregions of Spanish-speaking communities contain their own unique worldviews, values, traditions and even vocabularies, often developed over hundreds of years.
  • Many Latin American Communities in particular have absorbed or continue to live alongside indigenous communities with rich traditions of their own. This proximity often has great influence local cultures and vocabularies.

When branching out to these audiences, it is incredibly important to take into account that one size does not fit all. A shared language does not automatically mean shared values, or a shared culture.

This is one of the most important reasons for choosing to hire a professional who is specifically trained in Spanish translation and copy editing.  A Spanish language expert will be able to navigate some of the more subtle, as well as overt, linguistic and cultural differences to make sure your message is being received in the way in which is was intended. Translation is not just about the language, but about the message.

Targeting your translation to the geographic locale of your intended Spanish-speaking audience is the most effective way of getting your message not only heard, but understood.

English to Spanish Translation Linguistic Differences

Why is it important to target a specific geographic locale? It is important to note that while there are officially 470 million native Spanish-speakers in the world, there exists a wide variety of linguistic differences between individual Spanish-speaking communities. With such a geographically diverse community, it’s not hard to imagine there could be significant differences in local expressions, sayings, vocabularies and even grammar.

Take for example the English language. While British English and American English are officially the same language, there exists incredible regional linguistic variances, even with something as simple as food items. The word ‘chips’ for example: British chips are American ‘French fries’, but American ‘chips’ are British ‘crisps’. Confused yet? This is precisely why hiring a Spanish translation and copy editing professional is important, as they are trained to navigate issues such as this. The same word used correctly in one area could end up having a completely different meaning in another. A mistake like this could be confusing at best and offensive at worst.

Regional differences in grammar is another important consideration. Spanish spoken by natives from Spain will use different verb tenses that you would never hear used by a speaker from Mexico. Even basic, seemingly simple vocabulary can vary across regions, such as the word for corn: maiz in the more Northern Latin American countries, and choclo in the more Southern regions.

Cross Hispanic Cultural Differences in Communication

Linguistics aside, there can also exist a large difference between cultural expectations that could affect the way you might want your message to be conveyed. Different geographical locales could have different ways of showing respect and different social pleasantries that need to be respected before business can be conducted. For example, a message that is brief, concise and to the point, such as how we in the United States think of writing an E-mail, could be perceived as rude in another cultural context. Both professional and personal Emails in Argentina usually begin with several sentences of pleasantries, hello, how are you and I hope this correspondence finds you well. Whereas an American email tends to get straight to the point: Joe, I need this.

Local Political agendas could influence how parts of your message could be perceived, Latin America is composed of various Communist, Capitalist and Socialist communities. Could a local emphasis on the value of either individual or the group alter your message in any way? Are particular sayings or questions considered taboo? By using a professional Spanish translation and copy editing service, you can be sure to avoid any cultural missteps in this regard.

Benefits of Tailoring your Translation

There are many benefits to having a well defined, geographically specific targeted, Spanish-speaking audience. Firstly, and most importantly, is to ensure maximum comprehension. Why go to all the trouble to translate something that your intended audience still doesn’t fully understand? Secondly, it will help avoid any cultural miscommunications, misunderstandings or even potential offenses. While these might be the most important tangible reasons to tailor your translation, there are other, more subtle but just as important reasons.

Tailoring your translation lets your target market know that you understand them, that you’ve taken the time to learn about them and learn about what makes them different from their neighbors. It makes it easier for your target audience to find your message relevant to their lives  and to consider your message more thoroughly. If you are selling a product, customers may be more willing to spend their money on a product that has a local feel to it, or an obvious place in their lives.

To be certain your message has fully incorporated nuances of the local language, it’s important to hire a professional trained specifically in Spanish translation and copy editing. The Spanish with Style team is specifically trained to take into account local linguistic variances, and team members come from a wide variety of cultural and geographical backgrounds. Our team abides by best practices of professional Spanish translation and copy editing, meaning your message is examined by three separate individuals. This means that your document is examined by a translator, an editor and a proofreader who also have varied social, cultural and technical experiences throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Knowing that your message is being construed in the way in which it was intended gives you the ability to spread your message far and wide and communicate meaningfully with your intended audience.

Spanish Communications with Style Blog

Announcing our new Spanish Communications with Style Blog, and the launch of our redesigned website.

You asked. We listened.

After many months of planning and development our new site now incorporates significant changes, which improve and streamline your experience, as well as feature some of our projects and team of Spanish language experts.

This redesign also gave us the opportunity to create our new blog that fills a much-needed gap in understanding the importance of Spanish language communications and getting your written content translated and copy edited properly.

The new site’s homepage welcomes you with a clean, simple and bold design, easy-to-use navigation, and new featured sections that highlight our services and successes. These new sections will help you determine if our team is right for you.

Our website also features our new blog that addresses nuances of the Hispanic culture, and Spanish language communications to Spanish-speaking audiences… an ever-growing segment of the United States and world populace.

If you have specific subjects you’d like to see covered in our blog, please feel free to contact us.

We look forward to continue serving companies in the United States and abroad with professional English to Spanish communications.

Ligia Maria Recinos
Founder, Managing Director