Tuesday, February 12, 2008

1-800-Flowers.com en Espanol and the Role of Language

While reading HispanicAd.com toady, I came across what appeared to be a press release from 1-800-Flowers.com announcing the launch of 1-800-Flowers.com en Espanol. What’s great here is that unlike the Tampico site which was a straight translation, 1-800-Flowers.com has actually seized the opportunity to refine their site to the Hispanic audience. It appears they’re offering a unique message and Hispanic specific products on a stand alone domain (pluses and minuses to using another domain). This is how it’s supposed to work. If you’re going to market to Hispanics, market to them – don’t market to the Anglo community and simply translate.
The above is a pretty good lead into the next chapter – the role of language in Hispanic marketing. I’ll have much more on this tomorrow; however, I do want to touch on a quick point.

Language and culture are intrinsically intertwined. On the subject of language, words, phrases, sentences, sayings, etc. are all expressions that are defined by one’s past cultural experiences. For instance, the book uses the example of the word mariachi. Mariachi can mean different things to people from different places. It can mean marriage, a musician, a band and a genre of music. Furthermore, beyond the strict meaning of mariachi, there are several emotional connotations behind the word. According to the book, mariachi brings a sense of pride and nationalism for Mexicans based upon the cultural experiences of colorful events, great food and music. Mariachi is about the pain of love, love for Mexico and life and the pain of dying. As you can see, how one relates to and defines mariachi illustrates exactly how language is in fact based upon culture and that cultural interpretation.

Given the above, how could a company do a straight translation of a campaign from one language to another? Do you know for sure the intended message in light of its cultural interpretation makes it through the translation? You better. What works for an Anglo targeted campaign might not have the same intended message for and interpretation by the Hispanic market

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