When Should Other Languages Be Used In Advertising?

When should different languages be used in marketing

Written By: Rodolfo Otamendi

When should other languages be used in advertising?

Living in a country in which many cultures meet, marketers often come across this question. When advertising to certain cultural groups, sometimes one can opt to use the group’s native language. A common misconception among communicators is that language and culture are two distinct factors. However, the truth of the matter is that language is very connected to social context.

The first thing that should be kept in mind when deciding whether the message should be communicated in English, another language, or both is the need of the consumer because otherwise the message cannot be properly understood. What does that mean? Translation is not always effective. Sometimes translating a message that was originally written in English into another language will not yield the exact meaning because an equivalent translation does not exist. It is important to remember that language is not only language, but it can also mean tradition, pride, and culture. One has to get in touch with the cultural background of the group being targeted in order to deduct whether the message should be translate, or written in English from scratch.

It can sometimes be effective to communicate in another language when surrounded by English content. This helps the message stand out even more, subconsciously. Again, the role of cultural and emotional connection comes into play here. Something important to keep in mind when it comes to mixing two languages, like in the case of “Spanglish,” is that it has to include terminology that is spontaneous and that has developed from the targeted group itself, rather than from the copywriter. You can’t expect to mix a bunch of words together and for the audience to find it cool. At the end of the day, the audience sets a good portion for the guidelines for communication.

“Spanglish can be either funny and cool, or really forced. I don’t know who decides this, but that’s just the way it is.” Cristina Velasquez, a Miami advertising student

Furthermore, the use of a language for emotional connection is an important factor that should always be kept in mind when selecting the language. The Spanish language, for example, is definitely one of the parts, if not the most important, of Hispanic culture, and there are certain expressions that can more successfully connect with consumers in the Spanish language. It is important to remember the cultural experience of the group being targeted and how the usage of the language may influence the emotional appeal of the message. In some cases, when the message being communicated was initially introduced to the audience in said language, using it can generate a greater emotional connection, and therefore, get the message across with greater success. Although different generations of cultures in the United States have different levels of English fluency, one thing is certain: Their native tongue is part of their background regardless and is a big tool of self-identification for them.

Overall, although it is up to the communicator’s discretion to decide when to use English, another language, or both in a message, the factors mentioned above should definitely be kept in mind when making a decision. In a culturally diverse nation, bilingual and even trilingual groups of people are becoming more common. The use of Spanish and English, for example, is very likely to become “intertwined” in the years to come, given the fact that the Hispanic market in the United States is increasing greatly.

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