Spanish-Language Statistics

If you live in the United States, you’re probably no longer surprised to overhear Spanish being spoken. But just how widespread is the Spanish language in the world today? Over 250 million people speak Spanish as their first language and if we include those who speak Spanish as their second language, the total number of Spanish speakers is over 400 million.Within the United States, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language. According to the 2006 US Census, over 34 million people primarily speak Spanish at home.

Some more facts about Spanish usage in the United States:

  • Over half of the country’s Spanish speakers live in California, Texas, and Florida.
  • 19% percent of Hispanics in the U.S. speak only Spanish, 9% speak only English, 55% speak very limited English, and 17% are fully English-Spanish bilingual.
  • Almost all second-generation Hispanic Americans speak English and 50% speak Spanish at home.

It’s clear that over generations in the U.S., Hispanics shift from being Spanish-dominant to English-dominant, as explained in a previous blog post. But it also remains clear that as immigrants continue to arrive in the United States with little to no English-language proficiency, there remains a need in the marketplace for products and services to be marketed in Spanish.

Text Expansion in Spanish Translations

If you’ve ever listened to a Spanish-English interpreter, you may have wondered why the interpreter’s translation into English of a Spanish statement seemed so much shorter and the converse so much longer. What you’ve witnessed is contraction and expansion when translating between two languages.

The same thing occurs in written translations, and can affect how your final document appears if you don’t take text expansion into account when creating your layout. When translating from English into Spanish, the text may expand up to 20% and when working into Spanish from English, the text can contract up to 15%.

If you need a document with a fixed template or page count translated, such as a brochure or newsletter, not taking text expansion or contraction into account can make your best graphic design attempts fall apart in translation.

Here are a couple of tips to avoid large expanses of white space or overcrowding in the final translated document:

  • Use a larger font in English to account for text expansion into Spanish and a smaller font for Spanish to English translations.
  • Have a translation-friendly template ready with reduced point size and decreased space between paragraphs.
  • Avoid document styles such as nested lists, since what looks clean and crisp in English may look silly when translated into Spanish.

Targeting different Spanish-Speaking Audiences Through Translation

Last month, Transpanish posted an article about using Neutral Spanish to reach the widest possible Spanish-speaking audience. Those who translate documents into neutral or standard Spanish strive to remove any vocabulary or markers that would identify the text with a specific region where Spanish is spoken. Using neutral Spanish is useful when your document will get distributed in more than one country.

But if your goal is to market a product or spread your message in the U.S., you may want to consider a more tightly targeted translation. Rather than trying to reach all Spanish-speakers in the U.S., you should work with your translation agency to define the demographic you want to reach so as to make your message more potent.
Are you selling real estate to educated immigrants in Florida? Promoting a new cell phone plan to young urban Puerto Ricans in New York? Or informing first-generation Mexican immigrants in the Southwest of the importance of prenatal care?

All of these groups speak Spanish with a different vocabulary, different idioms, and slightly different speech patterns. The short, snappy sentences that will sell a cell phone plan to young Puerto Ricans may turn off older immigrants from South America. The tone that gets your business new customers looking to retire will be too stuffy for the younger crowd.

Of course, attention to your audience is always important in any kind of writing. When you’re not only trying to target your intended audience, but also trying to make sure that the target text is faithful to the source, the expertise of your translation agency becomes even more critical. This is especially true if you don’t speak or understand Spanish, as you have to completely trust that the contracted agency has the knowledge necessary to create a translation that targets your specific demographic.

Related Articles
Researching Neutral Spanish Terms and Dialect-Specific Terms
Reaching Your Spanish-Speaking Audience with Global Translations
The Use of Neutral Spanish for the U.S. Hispanic Market

Words with the letter eñe (ñ)

In our last post we discussed the importance of the use of the letter eñe. Below are some words with “ñ”. One tip: If your keyboard doesn´t have the Spanish layout, you may type the eñe by pressing and holding ALT and 164.



























The Contested Eñe: “Pure” and “Impure” Spanish

While written Spanish is rife with diacritical marks (a.k.a. accent marks), there is none as sexy and symbolic as the eñe. Take for example, the commonly used word, año (year). Remove the eñe, and you’re left with ano, which is the Spanish word for anus. In most cases, leaving out the accent won’t result in possible embarrassment, but there is currently a movement which posits that the use of accents online is critical to maintaining the integrity and purity of written Spanish.

The movement was borne out of the initiative of the Real Academia Española, which finds that with the spread of Internet use, online communications should be held to the same standards as written Spanish. La Academia Argentina de Letras and the Instituto Cervantes also back the campaign.

To this end, Internet domains originating in Spain can now be registered with Spanish’s beloved and emblematic ñ. Internet addresses registered in Spain will thus be more descriptive and possibly less misleading. For example, if one wants to register an organization called Campaña Para los Derechos Humanos (Campaign for Human Rights), they can now do so and keep their Internet domain faithful to the organization’s name. Previously, they’d have to omit the ñ from the address, and would be left with the potentially confusing, which means “The Bell of Human Rights.” In examples such as this, one sees how critical the correct use of ñ becomes, as campana means bell and campaña means campaign or movement.

You may wonder: why is using accent marks so critical? Realize that this is mostly an academic movement of language purists. They maintain that the integrity of correctly written Spanish must be kept across all forms of written Spanish, even in the often informal and fast-paced medium of the Internet. Furthermore, the Campaña Pro-Eñe reminds us that accents in Spanish are not extra flourishes that we can choose to use or leave out as we wish, but are in fact necessary components of a correctly spelled word.

If accent marks are so critical in written Spanish, why are they often left out? Some reasons for their omission are:

• Efficiency, as inserting accent marks takes an extra moment and extra key strokes.

• Keyboards not specifically set up for writing in Spanish often make it difficult to quickly insert accents.

• Use of increasingly informal written Spanish, especially in online communications.

• Lack of knowledge about which words include accent marks, even for those educated in Spanish.

• Inability to adapt the Internet as a primarily English-speaking medium to the written conventions of Spanish.

• The different educational levels of Internet users, as many do not have the educational background to feel at ease with accent usage.

The movement to encourage correct accent mark usage on the Internet serves to combat the abovementioned reasons. However, only time will tell if this movement has the support and general interest to win over regular Internet users as well as academics.

Reaching Your Spanish-Speaking Audience with Global Translations

Your business wants to target Spanish-speakers residing in the United States, and the best way to do this is to have your materials translated into Spanish. So you contract a translation agency to provide you with an effective translation. Simple, right? But your publicity materials and product descriptions are meant to be read by Spanish-speakers all over the country. You want your message to be understood by educated Cubans in Miami, bicultural and bilingual New York Puerto Ricans, and first-generation Mexican immigrants. Each of these groups has a distinct accent, vocabulary, and set of regional phrases.

How can one translation impact all of these groups? Some translation agencies provide translations into what the industry calls neutral, standard, or universal Spanish translations. Put into simple terms, these translations are meant to be understood by the widest range of Spanish speakers possible, and are mostly free of regionalisms and any marker that distinguishes word usage as being from a specific country.

Some caveats about “neutral” or “standard” Spanish:

• Many translators argue that there is no truly neutral Spanish, but rather only an attempt to make written material as widely understood as possible.

• By trying to reach every segment of the Hispanic demographic, you may end up with a diluted message (a conversation with your translation agency about whether to use a global versus local translation would avoid this situation).

• Because Spanish-speakers are so linguistically diverse, there are some English words that have no universally understood Spanish equivalent (again, a good translation agency will be able to produce a document that will be understood by most Spanish speakers).

• Neutral Spanish is better suited for certain types of translations such as technical or industry-specific ones in which the vocabulary is more uniform.

• Neutral Spanish may not be suited for a message involving jokes or double-entendres. A quip that would get a chuckle from a Colombian businessperson may leave a Mexican farm worker scratching his head, thus possibly alienating a potential customer.

A good translation agency will be able to guide you through the process of deciding whether a neutral translation is the most effective way to transmit your message. If your target audience is US, the best option is to translate into Neutral Spanish.


Making Safety a Priority for All Employees: How Translations Can Help

Some sobering statistics about workplace safety for Latinos in the U.S.:

• In 2006, there were nearly 1,000 Latino workplace related deaths in the U.S. (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)

• Latino workers’ fatality rate was 21 percent higher than all workers in 2006 (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)

• More than one out of three Latinos killed on the job worked in a construction related field.

The causes behind these stats are complex, but if your company has many limited-English speaking workers, the first step in ensuring the safety and productivity of your workers is to provide safety information in your workers’ native language. This is especially true in the construction, transportation, and manufacturing sectors where it’s common to find English-speaking supervisors and Spanish-speaking workers. While the latter group may speak enough English to get by, their English reading skills may not be strong enough to understand complicated safety procedures with technical vocabulary.

The Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that companies with safety training provide the information in the language that your workers understand. Getting this required information translated into Spanish is a good opportunity to form an ongoing relationship with a translation agency that will be able to provide translations that are culturally and educationally appropriate.

If your English safety materials are clear, concise, and accompanied by graphics, your chosen translation agency will be able to create Spanish safety materials for your Hispanic workers that are just as effective as the originals.

Points to keep in mind when preparing safety documents for translation and choosing a translation agency:

• Over 40 percent of Latinos living in the U.S. do not have a high school diploma (2005 American Community Survey) so make sure that the original safety material is at an appropriate grade level so that the agency can faithfully translate both the meaning and style.

• Spanish is an extremely diverse language, and what Puerto Rican workers understand may be lost on Central American workers, so make sure that you are aware of the country of origin of your employees so as to provide the most widely-understood translation.

• Also keep in mind when choosing your translation agency that Spanish has many varieties and nuances and make sure that the agency you choose employs translators who are knowledgeable about the regional variations and language subtleties.

• A good option is to translate into Neutral Spanish which will be accepted and understood by the entire Spanish-Speaking population.

There are many cultural and political factors beyond the scope of this article that make workplace safety such a critical issue for those who employ Latinos, but working with a qualified translation agency to provide materials in Spanish is the first step in ensuring that your employees follow safety guidelines.

Related Article
Hispanic Employees in the Workplace

Services a Translation Company May Offer – Second Part

In our last week’s post, we discussed some services a translation company may offer:

Certified Translations
Back Translations

In this post, we will review other services such as Proofreading, Interpreting and DTP.

Proofreading – a quality assurance check where the final translation is verified against the source document

• Check for completion, formatting, the integrity of non-translatable text, etc.
• Proofreading should not involve re-translation, if there is a serious problem with quality in the translation the translator and editor should be notified.
• Proofreading can take place multiple times in a project: for instance, pre-DTP and post-DTP.

Typesetting/Desktop Publishing (DTP) – translation is laid out in client’s source layout file to create a formatted translation that matches the source as closely as possible.

• The translation will be typeset in the client supplied application (e.g. Quark, InDesign, FrameMaker, PageMaker, etc.)
• Since translations can contract or expand depending on the language (in general, a Spanish document will be twenty percent longer than its English counterpart), it is important to note that typesetting may need to modify the source file styles – though the goal should always be to match the original format as closely as possible.

Web site localization – translation and localization of Web sites. Localization adapts the material to be culturally appropriate and relevant for the target country/culture. Re-engineering of the site and thorough testing are required. Also, globalization and internationalization

Glossary creation, Translation Memory (TM) – clients may request the creation of glossaries for them, but they may prefer the translation memory from CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools.

• Client’s could request the TMs for their internal use, but more often they will rely on the translator or translation company to update and keep the TM current for use on all their projects.
• Glossary creation, though required less by clients, can still be useful when working on large translation projects that are only available in hardcopy.
• CAT tools require files to be prepared for appropriate use. These services are provided to standardize terminology and style for an on-going client. They can also reduce costs, based on leveraging previously translated material from the TM.

Interpreting – some clients don’t have documents to translate, but they need to someone to translate orally.

• Interpreting may be requested for a corporate meeting, a legal deposition, or for medical purposes when the patient speaks a different language than the doctor, etc.

There are two types of interpreting:

• Simultaneous: interpreters use special equipment and interpret in as close to “real” time as they can, beginning shortly after the speaker starts and staying as close to the speaker time wise, as possible
• Consecutive: the speaker and the interpreter trade off speaking with the speaker pausing every few minutes or after a full idea to allow the interpreter to do his/her work

Services a Translation Company May Offer – First Part

Bilingual Blogging: How Translators Can Help

If your company has a web presence, your marketing strategy most likely includes a blog touting your product or service.  But if your blog is only in English, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to expand your sales by reaching out to the Hispanic Community. What better way to target this demographic with enormous purchasing power than having your blog translated into Spanish?   You may already have your website available in multiple languages and perhaps have employees who can provide customer service in Spanish, but by translating your blog, you can increase Latino buy-in.  This is especially true if your blog includes value-added information such as news about your product or industry, tips, or commentary.   Translating a blog into Spanish isn’t as simple as cutting and pasting the published text into an automatic translation website, as explained in this blog post.  Doing this will most likely alienate and confuse the exact community you would like to target.   Because a blog is always a work in progress, most clients without a bilingual writing staff would be well-served by contracting this work out.  A good blog with a lot of traffic and comments needs to be consistently updated and the translation should be right behind the original English-language postings.   By contracting blog translation out to a translation agency, your company will ensure that the message and content of each post is just as effective as the English-language original.   Keep in mind some questions to consider as you plan to launch a blog in two languages: 

  • Should the English-language blog simply be translated into Spanish and left as is?
  • Should the translator also translate the user-generated comments on the Spanish language blog, and if so, what are the logistics of doing so?
  • Is it best to have two separate communities with separate sets of comments for the ease of translating?
  • If so, will the community created at the English blog lose out on the benefits of the comments at the Spanish blog and vice versa?

 There is no right or wrong answer to these considerations especially in the relatively new world of blogging.  When your company decides to actively reach out to the Hispanic community through dual-language blogging, a translation agency with experience in Spanish Translations will be able to offer guidance on how to navigate the above questions. Transpanish is offering 15% discount on Blog Translations. Offer expires on April 1st, 2008.  

Services a translation company may offer – First Part

The services a translation company may offer vary greatly from client to client and from project to project. Every day, clients are renovating their global identity and hence their needs are constantly evolving. In addition, technical and industry advances generate new standards with which translation clients and translation service providers must strive to stay caught up with.

Assignments differ in size and difficulty: from a single birth certificate of less than 100 words, to legal documents that a law company needs for litigation, to an advertising brochure for a home appliance to be marketed to Spanish speakers in the U.S., to website localization for a multinational firm.

These projects will require tailored project plans and work flows. However, they will all include elements from the following services:

Translation and Editing- a source document is translated and edited into another language.

• Usually one translator and one editor work together as a team, with the translator finalizing the document after reviewing the editor’s tracked changes.
• Most translation agencies offer translation, editing and proofreading when quoting translation rates.

Translation Only – a source document is translated only.

• Clients may request this if they need to translate a document for informational purposes only; other customers may have in-house or in-country resources to edit or proofread the translation.

Project Management in the Translation Industry

Project Management is a fast-growing field and it is tailored differently for specific industries.

A translation Project Manager (PM) is responsible for the overall coordination of translation-related projects for their clients. The objective of a translation Project Manager is to be the bridge that connects the client’s needs with the vendors that are best prepared for the project. Translation Project Managers establish the proper steps and procedures for the translation process, starting with the initial project analysis and developing the project plan, to contracting and overseeing the appropriate team members.

Translation Project Manager

The PM must be focused on the process and on the client’s requirements in order to successfully complete the assignment. It is essential to take into account that the role of a translation Project Manager is not to translate. Language knowledge and translation experience is advantageous as this information helps the PM to better understand the process, and educate and manage the client. Translation Project Managers outsource most of the translation work to qualified freelance linguists/translators.

The ideal translation PM needs to be comfortable multi-tasking and must be attentive to all the details of a project. They should have the following traits:

– Organized
– Able to multi-task, solve problems and prioritize
– Detail-oriented
– Dedicated and perceptive
– Should be able to work under pressure and meet deadlines
– Good team player with a positive attitude, determination, and strong management skills
– Should be able to lead and make decisions for the team
– Excellent communication skills with good negotiation skills
– Should be able to consult with clients, identify requirements, and inform technical information clearly
– Background in the translation and localization industry