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.