Choosing the Right Tone
As a web-designer or developer creating a website that targets the Hispanic community, or as a Web site owner translating your English site to Spanish, you probably have experienced the dilemma of whether to provide text and menus in standardized form or in regional form of Spanish. Providing text in regional format is a more complicated and, usually, more expensive choice. However, making the right choice depends upon your target audience and what market you are trying to serve.
Let’s take the example of a company offering internet access in the Latin-American country of Costa Rica. Since the company’s potential client base is not only limited to Costa Rica, but probably even regional, in this case, it is important to provide the text in the regional Spanish dialect. This is important because consumers need to be able to identify with the product that they are purchasing. The standard rule for regionalization is that the smaller and more restrictive the client base, the more consideration and individualization is required.
Another very important aspect to consider is the social segment you are trying to target. If your website is targeting social groups that are more likely to have higher education and higher income, it is better to use a more formal, and therefore, more standardized form of Spanish. This is directly tied to the fact that your target consumer is aware of two languages; they can speak their regional dialect, but they are much more likely to write Spanish is a standardized form. Therefore, your website should reflect their expectation that they will be addressed in a more formal way by potential sellers.
For example, if your website targets customers in Mexico City, you will definitely want to target a large and diverse audience who probably speak many different dialects of Spanish. In this case, widen your prospective client base by using a standard form of Spanish. City dwellers in large metropolitan areas often have more diverse backgrounds, and are more likely to have a higher income and professional scope. You should address them in these terms on your website.
Other Basic Language Rules—Formal and Informal Spanish
One of the most important differentiations in the Spanish language is the formal “you.” In most Latin-American countries, the very idea of using the formal “you” is out of the question. It might even carry a very negative association of social pretension, especially in regional dialects. You don’t want your customers to think you are trying to be better than them by using an extremely formal version of the language that they speak every day. However, in some countries the formal “you” is normal to use between strangers or business associates. In this case, you will most likely choose to use a very formal variety of regional Spanish. You don’t want to offend your clientele for not abiding to basic language rules which can have a very large impact on your business’ success.
We have explored just a few options for choosing whether to translate your language into standard Spanish or regional Spanish. There is no rule, but we can define certain constraints; the smaller your customer base, the better regionalization will work for you. If you want to target large, diverse groups in most Latin-American countries, use a regular, standard form of the language. If your country is one of the few who abide by the very formal rules laid down by European Spanish, go the extra length to learn about the common courtesy rules in that country, and abide by them. In this case, prefer a more regional and yet very formal style of writing.
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