According to the recent census, Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority in the U.S., constituting a huge constituency for member organizations, and a large population in need of social services, education, and information. By the year 2030, nearly 48.2% of the country's total consumer growth will be in the Hispanic population. In parts of New York, Florida, Illinois, Texas, New Mexico, and California, Spanish is not a foreign language at all. It is the everyday language of business, social life, and family. In the home, millions of Latinos speak Spanish, and though many understand English, they prefer to be addressed in Spanish, and are much more likely to be moved and persuaded by productions in that language.

Though all Americans have much in common, there is a gap in behavior between Hispanics and non-Hispanics, and this gap is not shrinking, but growing. Tastes, values, priorities, the way we interact with society and view life these are becoming more different, not less. This has important implications for how institutions address Hispanics in the coming decade


When putting pre-existing English language productions into Spanish, or creating new Spanish productions from messages and concepts formulated in English, we create adaptations, not translations. Literal translations often make no sense, or have no impact among Latinos. A Spanish version of a Video News Release, Public Service Announcement, or Documentary / Informational Video involves much more than putting Spanish narration and voices over English narration and interviews. Some of the major issues:

*** Spanish runs about 30% longer than English, so that productions with much narration often must be re-edited to lengthen shots, or some of the verbal content must be compressed or omitted. Trying to fit it all in leads to unintended comedy, for the narrator must race through the material like a used car salesman.

*** Hispanics like to see interviews with Hispanics, including some experts as well as the general public. Latino programmers and members of the general public can be offended by English voicing over Spanish interviews.

*** The Hispanic Community is in fact made up of many communities from different nations, Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans etc. each having their own brand of Spanish, vocabulary, slang. Hispanics born the U.S. think and act differently than those born in Latin America, having for example a certain distrust of government and nonprofit organizations, different tastes in food and music, and different views on "normal" family size, religion and medicine. Latinos educated in the U.S. know different things than those educated in their native country.

*** Cultural meanings, preferences, and values come into play in making the journey from English to Spanish. (That is why the term "adaptation" is better than "translation" when it comes to television and radio.) It is not just a stereotyping, but a recognition of important cultural differences, to note that most Latinos value families and groups highly, or are status-oriented addressing professionals with their titles, or are aware of generational hierarchies. Individual differences do not erase general recognition of the need to be aware of the need for politeness with women and the elderly, or being more focused on the present than the future, which is "In God's Hands." Meanings are different: dress codes including jewelry and colors, greetings of friends including kissing, attitudes toward seniors, images and symbols. A low-keyed gesture in one culture may be obscene in another. An "ordinary" Anglo family scene may for a dozen subtle reasons feel alien to Latinos.

*** The Hispanic Middle Class is rising, but income levels for many Hispanics are still low by national standards. Most Latinos do not drive luxury cars or belong to country clubs, and not all messages will be effective with all economic groups.

*** The same with literacy and education levels. Complex sentences and elaborate diction may sound impressive, but be incomprehensible to a general audience.

*** The fact that many Hispanics understand English does not mean that they are best approached or most powerfully persuaded in English. There is a big difference between a neutral understanding of information and being moved to empathize and take action.

*** The cost of high quality production is about the same in Spanish and English. Some savings can be achieved, if a campaign is planned as a bi-lingual campaign from the beginning. Shared surveys, package design, studios and crews, talent and interview subjects can bring down costs if the English and Spanish productions happen together. Of course this pre-supposes that the producers can produce at a high level in both languages.

*** Hispanics like to see interviews with Hispanics, including some experts as well as the general public. Latino programmers and members of the general public can be offended by just voicing Spanish over English interviews.


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