Do You Need Spanish Translation or Not?

Do You Need Spanish Translation or Not?

hispanic woman shoppingA marketing data company recently published a report on Hispanics and their shopping habits. Among other things, it said that Hispanics prefer advertisements in English, suggesting that Spanish translation efforts may not be necessary.

Whoa, not so fast! Companies that cater to Hispanics – and which U.S. company isn’t catering to this 53-million-strong community? – should consider our argument before applying the brakes on Spanish. Here’s why:

Goes against Established Research

Research has shown that over 70% of consumers prefer their local languages on websites. This preference becomes stronger when it comes to actually buying something on the site.

While that was a general finding about the online buying preferences of consumers, there’s data here, here, and here that shows that Hispanics gravitate towards content in Spanish. Yes, that last link (“Why English AND Spanish are the Official Languages of the Internet for Hispanics”) does mention English, too. Which brings us to our next point.

Hispanics are Bilingual. So, What?

A Nielsen report estimated that 9 out of 10 Hispanic parents prefer to raise their children as bilingual in both Spanish and English. Should that stop you from translating to Spanish? Hardly. If anything, it should remind you that Spanish is still in the picture.

It’s not because Hispanics can’t read English that you must translate website content for them, though this may be the case for first-generation immigrants. Creating tailored content for Hispanics in Spanish actually means that your company understands the community, respects their heritage, and cares enough for their loyalty. And, this is true of all Hispanics, whether they speak English or not.

Drill Down into the Source of Growth

As marketers, you may be familiar with English-dominant (speaks English predominantly), bilingual, and Spanish-dominant (speaks Spanish predominantly) Hispanics. Among these groups, it’s the Spanish-dominant that is showing signs of faster growth. This makes the need for translation pretty obvious.

Sometimes, Language May Not Matter

Some categories of products, like luxury items, are language-agnostic. In such cases, consumers may be aspiring for the brands and the language may not matter as much. But by and large, a localized product is more relevant than one that is not.

Translation Quality Matters, Always

More often than not, the original content is produced in English and is then translated to Spanish, without much regard for translation quality. And, sometimes, it’s just that, meaning it stops at being a direct translation of the English content. This is a surefire way of upsetting Hispanics who are widely bilingual and can easily see the difference between a high-quality English advertisement and a merely translated one.

It’s common knowledge in the language services industry that when it comes to marketing material, translation is not enough. An understanding of the cultural nuances, how the target audience perceives your product, what could be offensive to them, what would resonate more with them – all these factors need to be taken into account to form the proper brand messaging. In short, you need to transcreate as well as translate.

Many times, ads and content in Spanish seem like they are just word-to-word translations – something that shows the brand didn’t care enough to craft a more relevant message. Hispanics have been known to prefer English over Spanish, but often it’s only when they’ve been presented with translated, but inferior quality content.

What Will the Future Hold?

Telemundo’s Borja Perez recently said that the Hispanic consumer was not only “leading in the adoption of digital and social trends, but also actively creating them”.

Companies like Facebook have decided they want in, in this young and hip market: They recently improved their language-based marketing to Hispanics.

When all it takes is the addition of one language to reach 53 million Hispanics – when you can tap into a new market without the hassle of going abroad – why leave it to chance?

link to read free Engaging the Latino Market ebook

About Vijayalaxmi Hegde

Vijayalaxmi is a member of the marketing team at Smartling. Prior to joining Smartling, she led the language services market sizing project at industry research firm, Common Sense Advisory. She is also a trained journalist and has written for publications in India (where she lives) as well as abroad. She is a plain language and tech enthusiast and speaks Kannada, English, Hindi, and Bengali – listed in the order she learned them.


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