Commercial Translation Obstacles for Bilingual Demographics

Closing the gap between native and secondary languages

translation marketing diversityCatering to various languages when expanding to foreign markets is an effective way to spread one’s brand. The process of proper commercial translation is complex as-is, requiring specialized language and creative writing skills many call transcreation. But when dealing with bilingual target markets, it adds a whole new dimension of complexity to the campaign.

Importance of Commercial Translation

An individual who is bilingual is defined as a person who speaks two languages. Going deeper, it is also often an individual who is exposed to two different cultures. According to a 2014 survey from the United Nations, over 232 million people are living outside of their home countries. In the U.S., the 2010 Census uncovered that 16 percent of the population are Hispanics and 5 percent are Asians.

Furthermore, businesses should be aware that bilingual demographics in many countries are growing at a rapid rate. From 2000 to 2010, Hispanic and Asian communities grew at a whopping 43 percent in the U.S., based a report titled “Crossing the cultural divide through bilingual advertising: The moderating role of brand cultural symbolism” from the International Journal of Research in Marketing (IJRM). “This demographic shift, like all the previous ones, brings with it profound political, social, and cultural implications,” said Matt Palmquist, an Oakland-based business journalist.

To cater to changing demographic needs, effective commercial translations are essential in your public relations and website strategies.

Bilingual Advertising

When appealing to such demographics, businesses have the option to run less culturally symbolic ads. This is to meet the demands of locals and bilinguals in a foreign area. This practice is common, but the results are often inconsistent. In the past five years, several large brands have instead shifted to investing in culturally rich ads. For example, in 2013 Wal-Mart spent $60 million on specially targeted ads to reach Hispanics living in the U.S., who are considered bilingual or bicultural. Another example comes from Coke’s bilingual advertising strategy in India and Pakistan. The company’s taglines were either completely in English or in Urdu. The two sets of languages were designed to appeal to both (local and foreign) communities in the region.

Proper Translation

Commercial translation plays a crucial role in bilingual advertising. With the proliferation of local, culturally immersive advertising trends, companies may need to carefully monitor the accuracy level of their ad translations. This is because some words in one’s native language may come with more emotional weight and deeper personal attachments. In a study conducted by Luna and Peracchio (2005), the group cited that businesses that use product names with Spanish terminology origins invoke feelings of national pride and comfort for Hispanic bilinguals.

“One challenge in appealing to ethnically diverse populations is that members of these groups may be at different stages of acculturation, with varying receptiveness to ethnic marketing efforts. One such group is bicultural individuals who identify with both their home and host cultures,” explained Umut Kubat and Vanitha Swaminathan, authors of the IJRM marketing paper.

20 percent of U.S.-based consumers considering themselves bilingual. This is based on statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. Furthermore, over 66 percent of children growing up in bilingual environments. This is why investing in a bilingual marketing strategy to boost consumer appeal has become increasingly important in competitive markets. To ensure accurate translations and staying on message, businesses may consider engaging companies that specialize in commercial translation marketing services.


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