Spanish Speaking Market Explodes
In recent weeks, there have been heated debates in the media and in Congress over the bill passed by the U.S. Senate to make English the official language in the United States. A driving force behind this movement is the growth of the Spanish language in the U.S..
Despite this recent push to make English the official language, the importance of reaching the Spanish population in their native tongue has become more important than ever.
The Spanish-speaking population is one of the fastest growing segments in the world, especially in the U.S.. This community constitutes a huge market segment that shares products, services, and culture, offering businesses and institutions a truly unique growth opportunity. Here are some important facts regarding the Spanish language:
Hence, the demand to have documents and communications in Spanish is growing. This is especially true in the U.S., where the Hispanic population is now the largest minority in the country.
It is almost “a must” to have websites and offline information in Spanish. In fact, many of the Senators who voted in favor of making English the official language have Spanish materials on their own websites. It’s ironic, but it acknowledges the need to reach Spanish speakers in their native tongue.
From a commercial point of view, companies cannot afford to avoid Spanish in their websites. The purchasing power of U.S. Hispanic households is estimated to have increased from US$276 billion in 2002 to US$630 billion in 2004. In New York alone, Hispanic purchasing power was estimated to be $30.7 billion (2004).
While the majority of Hispanics are concentrated in the top cities in the U.S., there has been a significant migration to other areas, including the following states: Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
This countrywide demand for quality Spanish content has been fueled, in part, by the explosive Hispanic media market. Led by television advertising at a national and network level, this market has seen growth of nearly 74 percent over the past five years. Advertising expenditures for the Hispanic market in television reached approximately $1.41 billion in 2005. That’s a two-fold increase compared to 1999. Further, 500 Spanish newspapers, 150 magazines, and 200 publishers continue to thrive in the U.S. alone.
Not only are Hispanics more responsive to communications in Spanish, they are requiring higher quality communications, which translates, no pun intended, into the need for better translations tailored to the Hispanic market.
Trusted Translations, Inc. specializes in the Spanish and English pair of languages (www.trustedtranslations.com) and has recently launched a new portal, Spanish Translator Services (www.spanish-translator-services.com), that provides free tools related to Spanish and English translations and localization. The site contains free English- to-Spanish dictionaries developed specifically for this project by a select team of Spanish linguistic experts.
The dictionaries are industry specific and contain specialized terminology difficult to find on the Web. The dictionaries currently online have over 50,000 entries and are expected to grow to over 400,000 entries in the near future, with the continuous addition of new specialized, industry- specific dictionaries. The site also outlines important distinctions between the different types of Spanish and the idiosyncrasies of Hispanic and Latin American Spanish.
According to CEO Richard Estevez, “Our intent at Trusted Translations is to provide reliable and free content related to the English and Spanish language pair for individuals, companies, governments, non-profit institutions, and other language professionals. We hope this will improve the overall quality of Spanish in the marketplace and create a reliable reference point for the industry.”
In the U.S. online industry, Hispanics have taken center stage as one of the most important target groups. Here are some interesting facts related to the Hispanic market online:
From a language point of view, it is estimated that over 70 percent of Hispanic households speak Spanish as their primary form of communication at home. This includes second- and third-generation Hispanics that have lived their entire lives in the U.S.. Hence, from a cultural standpoint, the Spanish language continues to be an important form of communication, even for those considered to be U.S. natives.
While the importance of the Hispanic segment is very evident, the difficult task still remains of how to communicate effectively with this segment. To find the answer, it is important to understand what Hispanic means. This is especially important from a language perspective, as Hispanics are a mix of many nationalities. The term Hispanic was first coined by the U.S. Census in an effort to classify the Latin Americans living in the U.S.. This is important because Latin American Spanish is starkly different than Spanish from Spain. The Spaniards conjugate verbs differently, in particular through their use of “vosotros.” Verb conjugation associated with the pronoun vosotros is not used in Latin America. Indeed, its use would generate a negative reaction by Hispanics.
“Hispanic” Spanish is more of a mix of dialects and cultures from over 20 countries in Latin America. It requires special attention, linguistically speaking. To add to the complexity, U.S. media sources have an important influence on Hispanic Spanish, sources including traditional English U.S. media, but also leading Spanish U.S. media companies, such as Univision, Telemundo, and CNN en Español.
All of these considerations need to be taken into account when translating for the Hispanic Market. Companies that use content from the Spanish (Spain) market for the Hispanic market are making a grave marketing mistake, as Hispanics respond more to Latin American Spanish. In particular, Mexican and Central American countries have a strong influence, due to their proximity to the U.S. and their influence on the media in the U.S..
However, to say that Latin American Spanish is the solution to reaching the Hispanic market is oversimplifying the reality. Further discussion is necessary. Due to the concentration of South Americans versus, say, Mexicans in certain cities in the U.S., it is sometimes necessary to tailor content even further, to address a particular region. For example, the Hispanic Spanish spoken in New York is very different than the Hispanic Spanish spoken in the Los Angeles. Hispanics living in Los Angeles and Houston have a stronger Mexican influence, while Hispanics in New York have more roots in Puerto Rico and South America. In fact, it has been found that marketing campaigns targeted to Hispanics in New York are not as effective in other areas of the U.S. This is due, in part, to cultural reasons, but is also directly related to language variances.
No company in their right mind would use content from England to target Americans. Why should Spanish for U.S. Hispanics be any different, especially given the size of the market?
This does not even address in detail the importance of critical safety, health, legal, public service, and government related communications. Correct translations can mean the difference between life and death in some instances. While some would like to ignore the need for quality Spanish translations in the U.S. and would rather see English as the official language, the overwhelming reality is that Hispanic Spanish is relied upon by millions to live their daily lives. Ignoring this fact would be socially, not to mention economically, irresponsible for any institution functioning in the U.S..
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