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Know Your Audience: One Language Holds Many Voices

3/27/2018 by Sara Leonhartsberger

Often when businesses are considering translation for marketing, employee correspondence, or education materials, they consider the work to be from one language to the other. If the document must be translated, it will be from English to Spanish or any other language pair; that is the concrete definition of the process. However, like businesses intuitively realize in the host language, language is not composed of a singular voice; depending on region, variation within a language abounds. When translating any materials, an adapt translator—and business—will keep these factors in the forefront of translation decisions.

Like English, other languages possess a myriad of dialects dependent on regions, and these languages often have corresponding tiers of segmentation. English prominently has two standards of pronunciation, orthography, and lexicology—American Standard English and British Standard English. Such variations as words with z in American English and s in British English (maximization, maximisation) or words such as American English program compared to British English programme reflect different markets that a business should note. With Spanish, Latin American Spanish and Castilian Spanish also reflects a division within the language. While Castilian Spanish implements the vosotros form, Latin American form utilizes the ustedes form with higher frequency. Some Latin American Spanish speakers use the term carro for car, while in Castilian Spanish, this refers to cart. Even within these standards, Spanish and English both have dialectal variation within these regions; while a carbonated beverage would be called pop in the Midwest of the United States, it would be coke in the South. In Mexico, corn is known as elote, while other Latin American countries use maíz. A business aware of these variations within the language will tailor their marketing, educational, or employee material to reflect the regionality of their clients, indicating a level of awareness and respect to their clients.

When considering translations, businesses would benefit from an awareness of the variation within language. A business that can hone its materials for a certain market through a translator aware of these regional cues stands to reach their target audience more effectively. When clients believe their voices are heard among the sea of other voices within the language, they are far more likely to come to those who mirror their voice.

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