Friday, May 15, 2015

“Domestic” Globalization

Appearing in teQ Volume 20, Issue 7

The United States was always considered the melting pot of the world, and it continues to be so. Those that recognize this diversity will be quick to gain loyal market share. Don’t overlook the easiest and fastest way to increase sales within the United States: the simple translation of product labels, advertisements, websites, software, instructions and safety information for the growing non-native- English speaking population. Be the first in your industry and have a unique selling proposition, or be second and try to keep up with your competition.

Some industries already understand the need, and even the government requires specific material like insurance documentation, health information and student testing materials to be translated. Walmart's 3,700 stores in the United States also stock tens of thousands of their consumer products carrying bilingual English-Spanish product packaging to appeal to the rapidly growing Spanish-speaking market. Other big store chains like Sam’s Club, Lowes, Home Depot and Best Buy have followed with the use of bilingual signs, making things easier for shoppers.

The Data
Spanish was the second most common language in the country in 2012, spoken by approximately
38.3 million people, which is expected to increase to 40 million by 2020 according to the US Census Bureau. The United States holds the world's fifth largest Spanish-speaking population, outnumbered only by Mexico, Spain, Colombia, and Argentina.

Interestingly, about 17 million of these Spanish speakers were born here. It is estimated that over 70% of Hispanic households primarily speak Spanish at home, not English, including second and third generations that have lived their entire lives here. The word “Hispanic,” in fact, was first coined by the U.S. Census to try to classify the Latin Americans living in the United States.
Reviewing data on speakers of languages other than English, and speaking ability, provides more than an interesting topic on a changing United States. This data is used to create legislative policy, research applications, legal, financial and marketing decisions on how to effectively communicate with non-English speakers.

For example, after reviewing statistics on Tagalog and Vietnamese, each with over one million speakers in the United States, as well as Chinese, Japanese and Korean, these languages are now used in California, New York, Texas, Washington, Illinois, Alaska and Hawaii elections. This data is used to address critical safety, health, legal, public service and government related communications. Correct translations can mean the difference between life and death in some instances.

Translation effectiveness
It is important that the data be used properly in determining languages and versions for translation. Restaurant Depot has in-store maps translated into Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Vietnamese for their customers, since a high number of restaurants in certain cities are operated by non-native English speakers.

Taking just the Hispanic market into consideration, it comprises dialects and cultures from over 20 Latin American countries including Mexico, South America and Central America, and if you were to use Spanish for Spain it would be very different, ineffective or insulting to them. If you intend to use the translation over a large area in the United States, the key is to make it as “universal” as possible. However, if you are marketing to a particular region, it is sometimes necessary to use the correct version of Spanish. New York has a higher concentration of Puerto Ricans. Marketing campaigns targeted more generally to the “Latin American Hispanics” are not as effective there as compared to other areas in the United States. Los Angeles and Houston have a Mexican influence which is different from Latin American Spanish.

A senior life company uses a universal Latin American Spanish for Fort Myers Florida, but for Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennsylvania, they know they need to adjust text and translate into Puerto Rican Spanish, based on demographics. Having that knowledge and making slight adjustments increased effectiveness and created a positive image.

The reality is that Spanish is relied upon by millions to live their daily lives. A company from Italy would not consider using packaging or content in Italian to target Americans, so why should Spanish for use in the United States be different, given the size and purchasing power of the market?

So do your homework, review your data, and go global domestically first.

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