WHAT DID YOU SAY???
Published March 13, 2010
I’m a bilingual voice talent. English and Spanish. It’s a niche that has developed through the years, and I’m extremely grateful to God and my parents for the privilege of growing up in a foreign country and learning to speak two languages fluently at the same time.
Along with that bilingual voice work comes the added opportunity to do some translation work. With the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S., many retailers and corporations are looking for better ways to communicate with the various communities.
Now frankly, I think the Spanish advertising thing is a little overdone. I mean really, does McDonalds have to advertise in Spanish in L.A??? But there are thousands of other times where Spanish advertising is totally appropriate. I’ve done several ads and training videos for law firms, banks, employment services, etc. that target the Spanish population with pertinent information about their services.
I’ve heard the arguments about how if “they” are going to live in this country “they” should learn English. Well, they are. I don’t know of one native Spanish speaker that isn’t trying to learn English. They are anxious to learn our language and our culture…the good parts. And local advertisers and companies are right in seeking ways to communicate with them and assimilate them into our way of life.
That’s where good translation work comes in.
So, if you are an advertiser or a company seeking to put together a commercial or a training manual targeted to Spanish speakers let me give you 3 suggestions that will improve your efficacy.
1. Lose the slang and colloquialisms.
Read through your copy. Are you using phrases and terms that will translate what you really want to say?
For example, I was given copy to translate yesterday that said, “Is your credit card company giving you the rap, rap runaround?” Huh?
Sometime ago I was given a car spot to translate where the dealer was offering a “No Bull(beep) Sale!” And he was irritated with me when I tried to explain to him that it just wouldn’t translate well. So, I gave them the line, and I’m not making this up, “The We Won’t Sell You The (beep) Of A Bull Sale!” It just lost something in the translation.
Which, by the way, leads me to a parenthetical thought: What is it with car dealers that have to name every sale? It’s the President’s Day Sale, the Spring Cleaning Sale, the Tornado Bustin’ Sale, the Tradin’ Pants Sale, the We’ve Got Your Back Sale…make it stop!!! Since when does naming a sale make it special? C’mon, do you really think the “Our Boss Has Gone Nuts Sale” is that compelling?
So my point is make sure your copy says what you want it to say without slang and colloquialisms if you want a clean translation.
2. Allow for more time.
Most languages take longer than English does to say something. It certainly is true with Spanish. That’s just the way it is. Deal with it.
There are a few main reasons for this phenomena. Many of the words have more syllables. For example, cat is gato; car is auto (or carro); street is calle, and bus stop is parada de buses. See what I mean? And when you figure that most English commercials speak too fast as it is, you can imagine what that does to a Spanish translation. And don’t get me started on phone numbers (I actually had a producer once say, “It’s a phone number. It’s only seven letters. How can it take that long to say?”).
Another reason for the length problem is that sometimes terms have to be explained. Especially if it’s an abbreviation or a coined term. For example I was translating anOSHA/Safety Manual for a company. They used the term “First Responders”. Now, most English speakers would know what that means, but it’s not a common term in Spanish. What is it? First Aid? Firemen? Ambulance? Police? It’s Primeros Respondedores, but the term needed to be explained at least once.
So, figure at least 20% more time to say something in another language.
3. Make sure your translator is fluent, fluid, and familiar with BOTH languages.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a translation done by a native Spanish speaker that wasn’t completely at ease with the English language, and they botched the translation because they missed the intent of a phrase or a word. That just ends up costing the client more money and time.
And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a translation done by an English speaker who took Spanish in college and spent a month in Mexico…and embarrassed themselves and the client. By the way, the word in Spanish for embarrassed is not “embarazada”. And when you bake bread you don’t “orinar el pan.”
So, I wrap up my diatribe by saying there are millions…MILLIONS of people who would appreciate hearing your message in their language as they adapt to this fast-paced, intimidating society of ours. Do yourself and them a favor and honor their language and culture with an accurate yet comfortable translation. They deserve it and so do you.