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How to reach the Spanish-speaking US Market

Translating and localising for the Spanish-speaking US Market

Companies, organisations and educational institutions marketing to the USA, are increasingly choosing to translate their materials into Spanish. Over 60 million people speak Spanish in the US. Spanish-speakers make up 18% of the population and they are the second-largest Spanish-speaking population globally (Mexico being the largest). According to predictive data, this number is only going to increase. It is expected, that one in three people in the US will speak Spanish by 2050 (this data includes bilingual people). With this in mind, it is not surprising that both governments and brands are working to make sure this significant community is included.

Already, when you call a customer service line in the US, it is common to be given the option to speak to an assistant in Spanish; many businesses are now producing signage in Spanish alongside English, and shops frequently hire a mix of English- and Spanish-speakers to accommodate all their customers.

After English, Spanish is the most widely used language in the US, way more than any other language. More than 41 million people above the age of 5 speak Spanish in their homes, which accounts for 13.5% of the total population. The second most spoken language, Chinese, is used by barely 2 million people.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Spanish matters

Furthermore, The Index of Human Development ranks Spanish as the second most important language on earth (behind English but ahead of Mandarin). It is the third most widely used language on the internet, however in spite of this, less than 8% of internet traffic is in Spanish. Spanish is the second most used language on X (Twitter) in both London and New York. It also comes second on Facebook, a long way behind English though well ahead of Portuguese, Facebook’s third language.

In the last four years, the Latin music business grew almost 60% in America.

Source: Recording Industry Association of America

According to the latest Multicultural Economy Report by the University of Georgia, the Hispanic population in the United States has a buying power of 1.5 trillion dollars and is the largest minority market in the US. Their impact is further compounded by the fact that Hispanic culture has been a major influence on the USA. Sports play a crucial role — Hispanics accounted for 26% of the US Major League Baseball, according to the data on Deportes Inc, and the Latin music industry is thriving.

A study from Pew Research reported:

  • 80% of US Hispanics don’t feel they need to stop speaking Spanish to be part of the American culture.
  • 86% of respondents believe the Spanish language helps them remain connected to their culture.
  • Ads targeting Hispanics in Spanish significantly increase their interest in purchasing products.
  • 79% of Spanish-dominant, 82% of bilingual, and 60% of English-dominant Hispanics surveyed think brands should reach out to consumers in both English and Spanish.
  • 58% of Spanish-dominant Hispanics and 48% of bilingual Hispanics think that brands that communicate in Spanish demonstrate they value the Hispanic community. 
  • 88% of digital-using Hispanics pay attention to online ads that include aspects of their culture — regardless of the ad’s language, according to Google Hispanic Marketing Forum.

Inclusivity and marketing

There is no doubt that inclusive marketing is the future of marketing, and a key dimension of inclusivity is meeting your customers’ language preferences. Treating Spanish-speakers as an afterthought will lead them to look to your competitors to deliver a customer experience that better meets their expectations.

To capture the Spanish-speaking US market, companies need to be aware that just as English in the US is different from English in the UK, not all Spanish is the same. In fact Spanish is an incredibly diverse spoken language, with a range of dialects that vary across Latin America, Africa and Spain. It’s not simply about different accents or pronunciation; many words have different meanings, depending on the locale.

To give one example: a toothpick is a montadientes in Chile, an escarbadientes in Argentina, a picadientes in Mexico and a palillo de dientes in most other countries.

The task of a Spanish translator is to be sensitive to cultural variants on an international and a local scale. The task of a Language Service Provider (such as Quicksilver Translate) is to guide clients through the complicated maze and ensure they are satisfied with the final text.

Note: Research has shown that Hispanics access the Internet more from mobile devices than traditional computers when compared to other groups. With this in mind, make sure that all of your advertising material is mobile-friendly.

Hispanic vs Latino

Generally speaking Hispanic refers to language, while Latino refers to location. Hispanic is usually defined as a person with a Spanish-speaking country of origin or ancestry. It’s important to be aware of not only who you are targeting, but also how you choose to define them. Not all Spanish-speaking people are Latino, and not all Latinos are Hispanic. 

According to the Pew Research Center, most US Hispanics prefer to use their country of origin to describe themselves. For example, California has the highest Hispanic population percentage: 30% of them say they prefer to be referred to as Hispanic, while 17% say they prefer Latino. But this preference is much stronger in Texas, where 46% of Spanish-speakers said they prefer to be referenced as Hispanic, vs. 8% who prefer Latino. 

Localisation is critical in states with a high population of Spanish-speakers, such as Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, New York, and Florida. However, this is made complicated by the many dialects of Spanish and Spanish variants in the US. As a result, you will need professional localisation services to tailor your translations to the appropriate audience — Google Translate can’t help you here. When localising your materials, it’s important to tap into colloquial language and reference the regions’ local customs and heritage — for that, you need a professional translator who lives there! (Did we mention our global network of translators?)

Adaption for the Spanish-speaking US market

Companies that adapt to a multilingual and multicultural community will reach a larger and more diverse market. As well as being more appealing to the younger generations, for whom these are key features when it comes to choosing a product or service. This means more than just translation: bring elements of the Hispanic culture into your marketing. Incorporate Latino music and use imagery from Spanish-speaking communities and you will likely find that your message reaches more people successfully.

The more you can do to tie your brand to the Hispanic culture, the more successful your marketing can be. As well as your messaging, remember that tailored customer service builds loyalty, and repeat customers often spend more on subsequent purchases.

We know it is tempting to use machine translation, but be aware that the resulting copy may lack authenticity. You put a lot of care into the exact wording of that original message, right? Are you sure the machine translated the finesse and flair of the original? If not, then your copy will not read as authentic to Spanish-speakers; and your attempts at localisation will feel more like a pat on the head, than a group hug. A professional translator will find the right phrase, that transmits the feeling as well as the meaning of the original, and therefore, better resonates with your target audience.

Put simply, the key to market expansion is to reach every person in their native language.

Find out more: Spanish Translation and Text Length (Or, making sure the translation fits!)

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