28 September 2022

No such thing as Spanish. The importance of regional localization

<strong>No such thing as Spanish. </strong>The importance of regional localization

It only takes one look at the global success of video platforms such as TikTok and YouTube to understand the power audiovisual content exerts over consumers. We have quickly become uncomfortably familiar with the experience of deciding that we are only going to watch one video quickly only to find ourselves inexorably drawn down a multimedia rabbit hole, spending hours upon hours scrolling, clicking and watching.

The truth is that video, more than any other medium, provokes an emotional reaction that engages us – whether it be the hilarity of watching a cat fail to land that jump, the emotional catharsis of watching people reunited with their families after months apart or the amazement at seeing a professional chocolatier perfecting their craft.

This emotional response drives us to share the content we discover online. The numbers speak for themselves: video content generates 1200% more shares than images and text content combined. It also makes us linger longer on a particular site – the average internet user spends 88% more time one a page with video content.

Neuroscience helps to explain why video is so effective – our brains can process visual information 60,000 times faster than text, and we retain 95% of a video’s message, compared to 10% for text. No wonder many brands are scrambling to create audiovisual content for consumers. Yet all too often, the global reach of these campaigns is limited by poor decisions at the localization stage.

Joanna Shiokka is the Lead Project Manager at Alpha Studios, the audiovisual specialist division of Enterprise Localization company Alpha CRC. In her experience, companies often contact Alpha Studios for help in localizing their content without necessarily considering such specifics as which accents and voices are the best fit for their projects.

Localizing content into Spanish can be particularly challenging, as Shiokka explains: ‘We have companies email us requesting Spanish localization, then getting confused when we ask if they’re looking for European Spanish or Latin American Spanish (LATAM Spanish). We often have to remind them that, while they may both be Spanish-speaking territories, there are huge cultural differences, and that vocabulary and pronunciation have clear and significant distinctions between the two markets. Then, of course, the LATAM market itself is massive and we have to explain that if they’re targeting a specific audience, we’ll need to help them understand whether they need to localize their audiovisual content for Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and so on. Just saying “LATAM Spanish” isn’t always going to be enough to create a successful piece of audiovisual content.’

The worst thing a brand can do is adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to localization and ignore regional differences.  Maria Salas, a LATAM Spanish linguist at Alpha CRC recalls how poor localization spoiled her childhood enjoyment of a video game.

“I remember playing this one game that was based on a very famous IP. We all knew and loved these characters before we sat down to play it, and were excited to dive in and immerse ourselves in this fantastical world. When we started playing, though, we were quickly disappointed by some poor localization decisions.’

‘With major IPs like this one, we’d developed specific ways of pronouncing the character names, and imagining how these characters would talk. All in our own national version of Spanish, of course. Unfortunately, we were only able to get a European Spanish version of the game – there was no localization for LATAM audiences. It really affected how my friends and I interacted with the game. We kept playing but whenever voiced sections came up, we really had to power through. It felt like a bit of an endurance test – the characters’ names were pronounced differently to how we would say them, the language didn’t feel right… Not using the right kind of Spanish heavily impacted that experience for us.’

Melina Vischi, another LATAM Spanish linguist at Alpha CRC, shared some insights into the importance of truly targeting Spanish localization for specific locales, going beyond standard LATAM Spanish and looking at Argentinian Spanish.

“In Argentina, we see and hear ads from throughout South America, and they’ll generally use LATAM Spanish voices if they’ve been localized and aren’t native to the region. The problem is that a lot of the products or services in these ads aren’t available in Argentina. They’ll be for another territory, and the ad just gets put on our airwaves. I’ve actually started to tune out LATAM Spanish voices because I assume they’re not targeted at me. I only really pay attention to ads that use Argentinian Spanish.’

Paradoxically, Vischi says, there are times that it’s more natural to hear the relatively neutral LATAM Spanish instead of a more regionally localized variant.

“I remember going to see an animated movie in the cinema. Normally this kind of film is localized into LATAM Spanish, but this time they were trialing localization into Argentinian Spanish specifically. It actually felt really wrong. These animated characters weren’t supposed to sound like me!”

Although Spanish has multiple regional and national variants, it is not the only language that requires brands to think about specific markets and communities when localizing content. Far from it. For any audiovisual project, it’s important to identify the target audience and define the best localization paths, whether it be Colombian Spanish, Austrian German or Canadian French. Indeed, as communities and countries become more conscious of – and sensitive about – their own cultures, the need for brands to strike exactly the right note with their audiovisual content is greater than ever.

Alpha Studios is an expert provider of audiovisual services, with state-of-the-art studios and post production facilities in Central London and other studios located globally. As part of the Alpha CRC network, Alpha Studios is experienced in providing complete audiovisual localization services for clients.