THE NEW AMERICAN SPANISH
Published May 15, 2011
There is an interesting trend developing in language use in the United States: North American Spanish. I’ve noticed it with advertisers as well as companies that produce training materials.
As a bilingual voice talent, clients will usually tell me what sort of Spanish they want for their project, and I’m hearing more and more requests for generic Spanish that is accepted cross-culturally. That is what I define as North American Spanish.
The Hispanic culture within the United States and Canada has so developed that we are now three and four generations deep with many families. That blending into the North American culture is producing an adapted language; a language that is accepted and understood by all generations.
What that means for advertisers and audio producers is that the idea of using culture specific voice talent is no longer particularly useful. It used to be that if you wanted to reach the Hispanic population in New York, you chose a Puerto Rican voice talent; in Florida you chose a Cuban voice talent; in California and Texas you chose a Mexican voice talent. However, a few years ago we started hearing some outstanding voice talents from various other Spanish countries, and the norm began to change. The shift was on for a cross-cultural language.
Now the demand is for undetectable regional influence. A few years ago clients would say, “It doesn’t sound Mexican enough,” or “She doesn’t really sound like a Puerto Rican,” when they reviewed voice talent demos. Now you’ll hear comments like, “She sounds too Colombian,” or “He’s too Mexican.”
Almost every native Spanish voice talent boasts that their Spanish is the most generic, but the truth is that real generic Spanish is simply unaccented, non-regional, and cross-culturally effective. That is exactly what North American Spanish is. You wouldn’t necessarily want to use it in another country, but you could. However, here in North America, it’s perfect.
But let me caution you about using a non-native speaker. Spanish speakers can detect a Spanish-As-A-Second-Language speaker in a heartbeat. To my fellow voice talents that are North American and learned to speak Spanish in high-school and college, I’m sorry, it shows. Use voice talents that grew up speaking Spanish but have adapted to the North American culture.
Is there a time when you would want to use regional specific Spanish? Of course. If you are seeking to reach first generation Spanish speakers, it would be appropriate to use a native speaker from their region. But beyond that, go for North American Spanish.