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Important things to consider if you’re localizing your business in Spanish

Spanish is the world’s second most spoken native language and the official language of 21 countries. If you’re looking to crack into the Spanish market, here are some factors to consider for your localized marketing strategy.

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash – Do you know what this Spanish phrase says?

Spoken by 559 million people worldwide, Spanish ranks as one of the most important business languages. It’s a language that is becoming increasingly globalised as it is commonly regarded as the most understood language in the western hemisphere next to English. With today’s global market, the use of Spanish online has risen by 800%. From eCommerce services to website localization, if you’re looking to enter the Spanish market, there are specific factors that need to be considered based on the Spanish region you’re looking to enter.

History of the Spanish language

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Photo from Wikimedia – The front of the Royal Spanish Academy in Madrid

Like other languages that developed in Europe, the Spanish language emerged as a dialect of spoken Latin in the Iberian Peninsula which is where modern-day Spain and Portugal are now located. The language developed further when the Arab armies invaded the peninsula in 711. The invasion brought with it Arabic art, culture, and architecture which had a strong influence on the area and language. Arabic began to mix with the old Spanish which resulted in the Spanish language that we know today. Spain expelled the Arabs in 1492 but the Spanish language managed to retain some 8,000 Arabic words. Words like la almendra (almond) or la almohada (pillow) have come from the Arabic language. 

After the Arabs left in 1492, the Spaniards started colonizing which is how the language came to the Americas. The first European settlements in the US were established by Spain in what is now modern-day Florida which is why Spanish was the historical language of many of the southern States during that time. With the annexation of these states, the main language eventually changed to English but Spanish is still used and spoken widely even in these areas today. 

The Spanish Empire also expanded its colonization to other places such as the Philippines in 1521. The Spanish controlled the island until 1898. Today while only 0.5% of people in the Philippines speak Spanish, it is still home to the most number of Spanish speakers in Asia. 

Today, the Spanish language is maintained and safeguarded at The Royal Spanish Academy located in Madrid. The academy started in the 18th century and helped to create dictionaries and grammar books that have since been adopted and used by other Spanish-speaking countries. The academy invented the use of the inverted question and exclamation marks that are specific to the Spanish language as well as the letter ñ.

European Spanish vs. Latin American Spanish

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Photo from Pixabay – The Spanish and Argentinian flags.

European Spanish is centred in Spain while Latin American Spanish speakers are located in the lower part of North America, Central, and South America. In Latin America, the Spanish language is just called español, since the language itself was brought over by colonisers. In Spain, however, the language is called castellano, which refers to the Castile province in Spain where the language is believed to have originated. Another reason why Spanish is called castellano in Spain is that there are other Spanish dialects within Spain such as Catalan, Galician, and Basque.

If you’re creating a localization strategy in one or more of these Spanish speaking areas it’s important to note that there will be regional and cultural language distinctions. Here are just a few important aspects to consider. 

A key difference: pronouns – vosotros and ustedes

The pronouns vosotros and vosotras (you) are only used in Spain, making this one of the key differences between Spain and Latin America. Vosotros is an informal means of address whereas ustedes would be used professionally or formally in Spain. Since vosotros doesn’t exist in Latin American Spanish, ustedes is used in both formal and informal means of address. 

If you’re looking to create a formal business presence in Spain this is an important distinction as if you use the incorrect pronouns on, say, your website localization, your business platform may not be taken seriously. 

Vos vs tú

Like vosotros in Spain, the pronoun vos (your) is used in Argentina, Paraguay and Uraguay instead of tú.

Past tense

Likely due to the influences of surrounding European languages, Spaniards use past tense differently than Latin Americans. In Spain, you’re more likely to hear about a completed action using the present perfect tense, whereas in Latin America they are more likely to use the simple past, which is similar to English. 

Examples of vocabulary differences 

English
Spain
Latin America
penbolígrafo or bolipluma or lapicera
car cochecarro or auto
peachmelocotóndurazno
cell phonemóvilcelular


Pronunciation difference

The pronunciation of the Z and C (before I or E) is different between the two Spanish-speaking regions. In Spain, these letters are pronounced with a “th” sound while in Latin America, an “s” sound. 

In parts of Argentina and Uruguay, the double LL and Y sounds are pronounced like an English “sh” sound while Spaniards would pronounce them with a “y” sound. 

Further, there are also differences in the way that people speak depending on the region. Argentinians are said to have a sing-song type of accent while Colombians have a neutral sounding accent. 


Things to consider when creating a localization strategy for spanish

  • Know your primary market

As this article details, there are a variety of differences within the Spanish language based on where it is spoken. A good localization strategy will understand its target audience and know what pronouns, tone, and vocabulary to use when marketing.

  • Consider neutral spanish

Since 21 different countries speak Spanish, if you’re a company that is looking to break into a few of them, you could take a different localization approach by using what’s called neutral Spanish. Every country that speaks Spanish will have its own cultural nuances and differences so to help ease the localization process, many companies use neutral Spanish in their strategies. Neutral Spanish, or standard or international Spanish as its sometimes referred to, is the process of using terms and vocabulary that are universally understood by all Spanish speakers. This process would include avoiding idioms that might be specific to one region and not another or words that aren’t specifically used in day-to-day speech but are appropriate enough for marketing purposes and general understanding. Neutral Spanish might be appropriate for your business if you have a high amount of technical content that needs translation or if you’re just getting started and are looking for a cost-effective translation solution.

  • Select the right localization agency

The use of localization and translation services is a key factor of success for any marketing strategy. A localization agency can help you determine what approach you should take when entering the Spanish market, if specific transcreation or localization is necessary, or if a neutral Spanish approach would better suit your business needs.

Into23 offers localization and translation services from websites to eLearning platforms and more. Our quality translation and advertising transcreation specialists can help you reach any Spanish market and localize your business to get the best return on your investments. Contact into23 tpday to find out more.

The 6 keys to effective eLearning translation in Asia

The eLearning industry is projected to be worth 181 million USD by the end of 2025, with an annual growth rate of 12.26% per year. Driven by the widespread adoption of eLearning platforms by educational institutions and employers around the world, as well as the increased popularity of online course providers, eLearning made the jump from supplementary service to primary platform in 2020.

The industry has continued to grow in 2021, as workplaces expand their online skills training platforms and commercial eLearning providers more effectively engage their users with gamified app experiences, data driven personalized services, advanced modules, microlearning (short bursts of platform access) and content optimization, including the use of audio and video.

The expansion of the eLearning market drives service providers to offer their programs in multiple markets to reach new audiences, which requires the use of eLearning translation services and website localization. The pace of development in the industry has resulted in increasingly complex platforms with more content, which makes effective translation and software localization challenging, considering the scale and scope of material to adapt.

Machine translation services are ineffective in this context, considering the nature of the application. eLearning translation not only requires attention to detail, but also an extensive level of quality assessment in order to ensure that course materials effectively engage users. Linguistic QA specialists can identify and evaluate the lexical and grammatical options which make the difference between efficient progress through course modules and ambiguity that can challenge users’ patience.

eLearning platform design in any language carries inherent cultural connotations. Everything from curriculum planning to content and the layout and user interface has a culturally specific context in the original language and culture that the module is developed for. This comprises the source language and content. There are six elements which make all the difference between successfully adapting to different cultures and lessons ending up lost in translation.

  • Text
  • Images
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Layouts
  • Graphics

Text: The basis for eLearning platforms and modules

Text is the simplest but most important aspect of eLearning translation and software localization. Opting for simple machine translation  is unlikely to provide accuracy, and while machine translation with post-editing ensures a level of quality and consistency, it does not  provide a framework for cultural context and therefore has limited scope for localization.

Cultural context often accounts for variations within same language. For example, people from Hong Kong use an English transliteration for the word strawberry,  (士多啤梨)  while in other regions it is translated as 草莓.

While Cantonese is spoken in Malaysia, local lexical variations arise from from Hokkien, Hakka and Malay influences, which contribute loanwords like (play) which in Hong Kong is written . There are also considerable variations in pronunciation.

For eLearning platforms,  the most efficient translation and localization solution when faced with cultural variations within a single language is to identify the most important market and develop the eLearning translation accordingly.

It is important to consider which language to use for localization in Asia: most content localized for the Malaysia market is in English. However, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese and Mandarin are widely used in Asia.

While there is considerable regional variation in Chinese language usage, the cost effective approach is to develop eLearning translation and localization for the most important market.  Articulate Rise is a widely used course authoring tool for eLearning platform developers. Rise 360 is well suited to text-heavy courses, which can be challenging to translate into multiple languages. We can quickly and efficiently process translation and localization for all courses designed with Articulate Rise.

Audio and Video: professional eLearning voiceover services

Multimedia localization in particular requires a solid understanding of regional and cultural context in the target market, in order for audio and video content to effectively supplement the text. Articulate Storyline is a streamlined multimedia content solution for eLearning platforms, and we can effectively process and translate all assets from Storyline 360 projects.

elearning voiceover services and multimedia localization

Localizing the text provides a basis for the eLearning voice over, which should also be developed for the most important market.

Planning, developing and organizing a workflow for high quality translation of text, video and audio between completely different languages requires expertise and experience with  providing localization and translation services.

Images: Visual learning and culture

Visual content in images and video should also be assessed for cultural relevance. While American Football imagery effectively conveys concepts to North American audiences and translates reasonably well in Europe, it may distract Asian learners who are less familiar with the sport and might not intuitively grasp concepts illustrated with quarterbacks and goalposts. Sports like soccer and tennis are more culturally neutral and help make content more easily localized across markets.

Layouts and Graphics: The culture of colour, and how it affects UX

Image and text elements should also be maintained separately, in order to avoid difficulties with translating and localizing images with text. Videos should ideally have captions set up as distinct elements in order to streamline translated versions. The design language for video caption and user interfaces should ideally provide a degree of flexibility, because colours have different associations in different regions and cultures.

For example, the colour red indicates passion in Western cultures, while it is associated with prosperity and luck in Asian cultures. In South Asia, the colour the colour orange is associated with the Hindu religion, while in the Middle East, green is associated with Islam. Streamlining colour configuration settings makes for an efficient eLearning localization strategy. Designing elements with flexibility and configurability in mind is an important step for eLearning platforms to take so that they can effectively translate their content for different markets with software localization services and expert translation services. Another efficient approach is to opt for culturally neutral design elements in order to effectively serve a wider eLearning audience.

eLearning translation and eLearning localization go hand in hand. Unlike legal language translation services, culture cannot be separated from language in an educational context. While marketing transcreation is an essential aspect of adapting an advertising strategy which would certainly enhance eLearning platforms, the scale of eLearning projects are generally best served by cost-effective localization and multilingual translation services with specialized eLearning voice over carried out by experienced professional translators who can optimize your platform and efficiently scale the reach of your services while ensuring they are effective for every user.

Into23 provides comprehensive eLearning and localization services with unmatched quality, speed and value in Asia. Our translation system supports Articulate Storyline and Articulate Rise content, which streamlines the setup of translated and localized courses. We can deliver a complete portfolio of course translations in any number of languages you require, including all audio and video content, in one go. Our clients never have to worry about keeping track of 25 different translations and coordinating launch dates. In Hong Kong’s English to Chinese translation services market, attention to detail and appreciation of cultural context is key to effectively serving markets.

Our experience in the region, global partnership networks and passion for language and culture enable us to develop effective solutions tailored to the scale of your project.

What clients want from multilingual translation services in 2021

The international business communications market reached a historic turning point last year, as companies, organizations and institutions across the world accelerated the pace of digitalising their operations. The sheer extent of the transition has spurred a corresponding demand for certified translation services in applications as varied as elearning, software localization, legal documentation and multimedia content.

As video content continues to proliferate on streaming services and social media marketing channels, the industry now sees increasing demand for high quality captions, subtitles, dubbing and voice overs. The demand for website text and marketing content translation also continues to expand as businesses increasingly plan their strategies around emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

Enterprise Translation in Asia: Market and Method

English to Chinese translation services continues to be a mainstay in the Asia-Pacific region, while consumer markets in ASEAN economies, which include Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei, Myanmar, the Philippines and Singapore drive demand for local language translations alongside Chinese and English content.

The unprecedented scale and volume of material to be translated – which is only set to increase over the upcoming decade-  results in the increasing use of Automated Translation and Machine Translation with Post Editing, in which a human translator proofreads, improves and adapts the material generated by the translation. While machine translation engines have made a lot of progress in recent years, the most practical and efficient solution for businesses that need to regularly translate material at scale is working with a language service provider that offers streamlined, cost effective Machine Translation Post Editing rates and comprehensive, value-added services.

We work with both standard Machine Translation and Neural Machine Translation, which can efficiently process complex material and adapt to infrequently translated languages and language pairs, which don’t have pre-existing datasets. Neural Machine Translation engines can also be configured to output a formal or casual style, depending on the project’s requirements, although this aspect still requires human review and editing, for which our Linguistic QA specialists are indispensable because of their experience, ability and speed.

The ideal workflow for translating material at scale heavily depends on the unique circumstances and requirements that companies face. Our experience providing Translation Management as a Service (TMaaS) for a range of different companies, from multinationals to startups and SME’s, enables us to quickly identify the relevant metrics and value drivers in any business model, from which we develop a cost effective hybrid service plan that delivers quality at speed and scale.

According to Multilingual Magazine’s 2021 Translation Trends report, the use of Machine Translation with Post Editing is on the rise across the world, with Language Service Providers in Europe indicating that they plan to expand their services. Meanwhile, language service providers in Asia increasingly partner with technology enterprises, which are required to cater to diverse audiences at scale.

The report identifies Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Portugese, Russian, Italian, Polish and Persian as the ten most translated languages in the market. In terms of market size, Multilingual cites Statista’s Chart comparing language speakers and online content.

Languages in real life and online

Source: Statista

The chart identifies Chinese as the language with the largest native speaking population in the world, with almost 1.3 billion speakers, followed by Spanish, with 442 million, English, with 378 million, Arabic, with 315 million and Hindi, with 260 million. The percentage of websites on Statista’s chart with Chinese language content, however, is just 1.7%, compared to 54% of websites displaying English content, followed by Russian, with 6%, German, with 5.9%, Spanish with 5%. And French, with 4%.

Statista’s 2020 report on the most common languages on the internet by share of active users indicates that Chinese is the second most common language used online, accounting for 19.4% of people online, compared to 25.9% for English.

Most common languages on the internet

The most common languages on the internet by share of active users. Source: Statista

The discrepancy between the size of the native Chinese speaking audience (the second largest online) and the number of websites published in Chinese indicates the extent of the opportunity for companies and publishers to expand the reach of their platforms and businesses by translating content into Chinese.

The Human Touch : Work with Expert Translation Services to Localize

The Multilingual report also emphasizes that Human Translation is still the most accurate, effective and reliable mode of translation, because of its unmatched capacity to address “context, colloquialism and creative writing.”  These factors are vital for marketing and public relations, to the extent that content translation intended for a public audience should be fully carried out by professional human translators.

Localization is only possible with human translators, and holistically adapting brands to local markets and cultures often requires transcreation. Developing an organic local voice with an authentic tone is key to building brand value when working with English to Chinese translation services in a vibrant, dynamic market like Hong Kong or Singapore.

Translation services in Hong Kong in particular often have to contend with the rapid pace at which the local language and culture develops, as new colloquial phrases frequently move in and out of favor, while the local language, Cantonese, also differs in written form (Zhongwen) from traditional Chinese in other regions.

From a brand perspective, re-adapting content from the ground up is far more effective than attempting to circulate literal translations of previously written material, which can even carry a certain level of risk in terms of inadvertently humorous connotations with local audiences. While the same principle applies to translating and localizing for European markets, some regions, due to a variety of local factors, inherently require a more hyper-localized approach. Mainland China is one of the world’s most challenging markets for this reason.

What businesses want: language services industry statistics

High quality localization and translation service providers have the ability to effectively adapt brand messaging to a local context and match the pace of publication required by any client. The characteristics that enable effective localization and transcreation align with the priorities of translation clients worldwide, regardless of the type service they require.

According to Nimdzi’s 2021 survey on Translation Buyer Priorities, the top five factors which translation services clients consider important are:

  • On-time delivery
  • Quality of Translation
  • Customer Service
  • Price
  • Number of languages offered

We work fast without compromising quality. Our commitment to developing our expertise matches our dedication to working closely with our clients, so we can provide individualized solutions that take markets and business models into account and offer better service at more cost effective rates.

At Into23 we are passionate about language, and the scope of our services is unmatched in every region. We translate all major languages, and we are experienced working in every sector. We are excited to share our expertise and insights with our clients as the industry continues to expand in Asia, where we specialize in localizing overseas companies and taking local companies global. We translate for tomorrow’s markets today.