photo credit: Barry Yanowitz via photopin cc

Which type of Spanish should you use?

It is a fact: the quality of the Spanish language in the US is poorer than it is in other countries.

1. Red flag Spanglish. Yes, Spanglish is easy, playful and very tempting. As you learn English, you basically start changing pieces in a sentence from English to Spanish. “Dame el tape negro“, Vamos a un party… and you could end up transforming the words themselves for a mix of Spanish and English: “No me laika (I don´t like it)”.

2. Be careful with the idioms. Not all hispanics come from the same country and the same culture, and language is used in a very different way in Cuba aor Mexico. What can be normal in one country can be very offensive in another one. I will refer again to the word “el culito del bebé” that caused us some trouble when a campaign aimed at Spain went by mistake to Latina America.

3. In case of doubt, go Mexican. This is the biggest audience, so the wider the audience you want to reach in the United States, the more you will be inclined to use Mexican Spanish. I have to say though, that I find many more idioms in the Mexican Spanish in the US than I can’t find in Mexican. You don´t need to change the global “conversaciones” for the local “pláticas” to get to your users, unless you are writing a blog, or outside of the newsroom. In fact, many audiences disengage from the message when they find too much Mexican terminology.

In marketing, however, the boundaries are more flexible. If you are trying to sell a product or a media only to a segment of the Hispanic population, let´s say some years ago Bank of America and its program for ATMs in Mexico, go ahead and use the type of language that identifies better with that segment. It is vertical marketing.

But if you try to include Hispanics as a whole, if you are a mass media or a global media, or if you want to sell your product to as many Hispanics as possible, you really have to pay attention to the language you use. That would be part of the newer cross cultural marketing trend.

4. Whatever you do, try to bring good professionals to your team who understand this is not about the language they speak at home but a more universal one. I have seen horrible forms of Spanish in commercials that are a complete turn off (“para que no the pierdas de nada”). This is when, beyond Spanglish, Spanish becomes an endangered language.

Clarisse Céspedes

Journalist and Content Strategist. SEO, sponsorships and video. Follow me on Facebook and @ClarisseCespede.

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