The English–Spanish language pair may be one of the most important on the web today when it comes to translating business and marketing documents. And yet, Spanish-speaking web users come across the same mistakes all the time.
We’ve gotten used to the English communication style in web content, so when translating English marketing content, it’s easy to make the mistake of simply copying the communication structure and strategies despite the fact that they sound far from natural in Spanish.
Punctuation and typesetting differences between languages are common. Here are a few tips to ensure the English content you are translating is truly effective in Spanish:
Try Using A Comma (,) Instead of A Dash (–)
English uses the dash as a common punctuation mark with a use similar to the comma. It appears in many blog posts and on many websites. However, if you ask a Spanish speaker to write a blog post in Spanish, the dash will never be used as a punctuation mark unless required to introduce a dialogue. For us, the dash is only a correct choice when it comes to dialogues.
Looking at a blog that offers reviews on website templates, I came across the following sentences:
- The layout of this template will make sure the important content is in focus – that’s why its simplicity works very well.
- The navigation is eye-catching – and it looks great.
In both cases, the dash is a visual way of offering some extra information that emphasizes the message. In Spanish we would use a comma instead, maybe with some exclamation marks to add that emphasis. For example, I’d translate these sentences as:
- El diseño de esta plantilla te asegurará que el contenido más importante sea el centro de atención, ¡por eso su sencillez funciona tan bien!
- La navegación es llamativa, ¡y se ve genial!
Avoid Translating Exaggerations in the Use of Qualifiers
English-language marketing content tends to use exaggerated qualifiers when selling a product or service. Although Spanish speakers are introducing this style into commercial language more and more, it still doesn’t sound natural. This communication strategy sounds a bit awkward, and many consumers will find the message untrue or unreliable if it’s too exaggerated. Here are some prime examples of this:
- The simplicity of this incredible template is amazing.
- The menu of this template has an amazing, beautiful and unique effect.
- If you are searching for a great template that loads very quickly and is lovely to look at, here you have the right choice for you.
These sentences are perfectly natural in English, but in Spanish they may sound pretentious and far from the natural use of the language. In Spanish, we would say something like:
- Esta plantilla tiene una sencillez sorprendente.
- El menú de esta plantilla tiene un efecto único muy atractivo.
- Si estás buscando una plantilla que se cargue rápido y sea atractiva, aquí tienes tu mejor opción.
Avoid Passive Voice
The passive voice may be used sometimes in English, when you do not want to focus attention on the object of the sentence. However, it’s always best to avoid passive even in English.
For Spanish speakers, the subject is not mandatory and the passive voice is a grammar structure that is not common. We prefer, instead, to use impersonal sentences introduced by the pronoun “se,” or we just use sentences in the active voice with or without a subject. Check the examples below:
- If you pay attention to the typography, you will see that lots of efforts have been made to make it perfect.
- Hosting service is offered to companies.
- All templates are included in the PRO Plan.
What would these sentences look like in Spanish if we preserved the grammar structure?
- Si prestas atención a la tipografía, verás que muchos esfuerzos fueron realizados para que fuera perfecta.
- El servicio de alojamiento web es ofrecido a las empresas.
- Todas las plantillas están incluidas en el Plan PRO.
That’s definitely not natural. Instead, we would say:
- Si prestas atención a la tipografía, verás que se hizo un gran esfuerzo para que fuera perfecta.
- Se ofrece el servicio de alojamiento web para empresas.
- El Plan PRO incluye todas las plantillas.
Communication strategies are highly important and vary from one language to another. The above are tips for producing neutral Spanish, but if you are translating content that should reach a specific target audience from a Spanish-speaking region (South America, the Caribbean, Spain, etc.) you should definitely take time to understand how the companies of that specific region communicate. A message that sounds odd won’t catch the user’s attention.