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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.

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

Chinese is one of the most important business languages. It is second only to English in terms of being the most spoken, so here are a few important things to know while creating your localization strategy.

With a large population and a growing number of middle-class consumers, the Chinese market has been a new hotspot for businesses. The Chinese market can be a successful market for your business if it’s done right. It’s easier than ever to crack this market with the growth of technology, online shopping, eCommerce translation services, and eLearning platforms. However, there are some major points to consider if you want to localize for a Chinese area or region, as there are many pitfalls when localizing to Chinese.

localize my business in chinese - hong kong

Hong Kong signs – Photo by Katie Manning on Unsplash

History of the Chinese language and its different types

Chinese is an old and diverse language. In mainland China alone, around 70 million people belong to 55 different minority groups, each with their dialect and some that don’t even have a distinguishable written form. However, with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Mandarin was chosen as the official language of the country. Today, more than 70% of the Chinese population speaks Mandarin. 

Written Chinese

localize my business in chinese - calligraphy

Calligraphy – Photo by chuanyu2017 on Pixabay

Written Traditional Chinese is around 6000 years old and is the oldest written language in the world. Cantonese speakers generally still use these characters, as do Mandarin speakers in Taiwan. Mandarin speakers in China use Simplified Chinese characters. Simplified characters have been around significantly less than their traditional counterpart as they were formalized at the beginning of the People’s Republic of China. The People’s Republic of China was formed in 1949, and at the time, the majority of Chinese could not read or write. To improve literacy, Mao Zedong initiated a new system of Simplified Chinese, simplifying around 2000 Chinese characters by reducing the number of strokes used for each character. Simplified Chinese was first used in 1956

While there are various spoken dialects of Chinese, these are the two major forms of writing. This is handy as even if the spoken dialect is different, Chinese can generally communicate through writing. 

Different dialects

Seven major dialects are used in China and its Special Administrative Regions (SARs). To reach the Chinese market with your business, you need to know where your target market is and what Chinese form is used there.

DialectRegion Spoken
Mandarin (Putonghua)Most of mainland China, Taiwan, Macau
Cantonese/YueHong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou (Canton), and Wuzhou.
MinFujian province and parts of Guangdong, Zhejiang, Hainan, and Taiwan
WuZhejiang province, Shanghai, southern Jiangsu province, parts of Anhui and Jiangxi provinces.
XiangMost of the Hunan province, the counties of Quanzhou, Guanyang, Ziyuan, and Xing’an, northeastern Guangxi province.
GanJiangxi province
HakkaNortheastern Guangdong, adjoining regions of Fujian, Jiangxi, Southern Hunan, and the older generations of Hong Kongers in the New Territories. In Taiwan, Hakka is spoken by some in the Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli parts of the country.

Related: What’s the Difference Between Mandarin and Cantonese?

Important considerations regarding the different dialect types

  • Cantonese is the main dialect spoken in Hong Kong. Traditional Chinese characters are used for writing. While many Hong Kongers can speak Mandarin and use Simplified Chinese characters, if you are localizing for this region, you should consider using Cantonese and Traditional Chinese characters.
  • In Taiwan, they speak Mandarin and write with Traditional Chinese characters. Both Taiwan and mainland China use Mandarin, but they have developed different terminology and writing styles.  

All of this variation within the Chinese language necessitates using the best Chinese translation services company to guarantee that sufficient research is done to develop a translation and localization plan that matches your strategy for entering this lucrative market.

Things to consider when creating a localization strategy for Chinese 

localize my business in chinese - tiananmen square

Tiananmen Square – Photo by wu yi on Unsplash

Know the culture, know your audience, and identify your primary dialect and region

Like any good localization strategy, you need to know your target audience, its culture, its language, and the things your target market values. You’ll need to consider how your brand voice and whether this will resonate with a Chinese audience. Can you directly translate your brand content, or will you need to consider a more creative translation, a transcreation, to convey your brand voice? As China is diverse, with differences across the regions, high-quality translation services can help you achieve your marketing strategy.  An experienced translation agency can help you avoid cultural mishaps and translation errors.

Learn from past successes and failures 

Learn from the companies who have attempted and accessed the market already. Localizing in China is challenging, and even some of the biggest names have failed after not performing thorough market research. Learning from what has worked with brands that are similar to yours can help narrow your research and expedite your localization strategy.

Related: The Top 10 Translation Blunders in Advertising 

Use local social media and eCommerce platforms

Mainland China uses various social media and eCommerce platforms that are not used or are less popular in other countries. Baidu is the search engine used by most people, with platforms such as WeChat for social media and eCommerce payments. Other social media platforms include Qzone, Renren and P1. In Hong Kong, western social media platforms are popular, and a variety of eCommerce platforms, from the Octopus card to PayMe, are used to pay for products online. 

Use expert multilingual translation services

It should be apparent by now the importance of localization and translation services when expanding your business globally, especially into Chinese markets. Navigating any new market is challenging, so take the guesswork out of your localization strategy and get the assistance of translation and localization experts. 

Into23 is a translation agency in Hong Kong offering localization and translation services. We are experts in Asian languages. Reach out to Into23 today to discuss your business localization strategy to set yourself up for success in the Chinese markets.