But recent news from Vice Media Group has highlighted just how much more there is to the story with a Spanish-language publication being launched for Hispanic people in the US market.
Vice Media Group, the owner of Refinery29, has announced the formation of a new sub-brand launched to serve the Hispanic community in the US. The extension of the Refinery29 lifestyle media brand will be targeted at Latinx people living in the US.
Latinx is a new gender-neutral term to refer to people of Hispanic heritage living in the US. The term has been steadily gaining popularity since the turn of the century, and Vice Media Group’s decision to target a specific localised brand at Latinx people shows how the country doesn’t equal language … or even culture.
Some 35 million people speak Spanish in the US, making it the second most commonly spoken language in the country. It’s also the second most commonly spoken language in the world after Mandarin Chinese.
The Spanish speaking community in the US originate from many Central and South American countries, such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil among others like Spain itself, all with their own unique language quirks and cultures.
So, who exactly is Vice talking to with this new publication and what lessons can brands learn from this hyper-localisation move?
When did the Latinx term originate?
The first recorded use of Latinx online was in 2004; it emerged from American Spanish speaking people. It is a gender-neutral term created to address the discomfort people, especially non-binary people, feel when being referred to as a ‘Latino’ or ‘Latina’. The ‘x’ suffix replaces the gendered ‘o’ or ‘a’.
The term steadily grew in popularity on social media channels, in the LGBTQ community and in college campuses across the US, before moving into the mainstream.
Criticism of the term
Many have proposed the term Latine as an alternative non-gendered word to refer to Latin Americans. The ‘e’ is also ungendered and is easier to pronounce than ‘x’ – users of the term Latinx pronounce it Lah-teen-EX.
Those opposing the term also think it is an erosion of the traditional Spanish language. This is an interesting debate to have, and it’s worth remembering that languages change throughout decades and years, with words entering the zeitgeist every year. It’s why we have the word of the year and new words enter the dictionary and everyday use each year.
Refinery29 launches R29Somos
Refinery29 has launched R29Somos to serve this underrepresented market.
In Spanish, somos means ‘are’. In English we use the pronouns I, you, he, she, it, we and they. In the Spanish language this is optional, instead you can use somos to mean ‘we are’.
So, as you can see R29Somos is intended to be an inclusive publication, which acknowledges that the country does not equal the language.
Even during a time when Refinery29’s parent company Vice News Media has been forced to lay off hundreds of staff, the brand has responded to the voices of American Hispanics who are begging for a platform where they can be heard. In Trump’s America with the ‘Build that wall’ narrative, and the Trump administration’s family separation policy to deter illegal immigration over the US’ Southern border with Mexico, many Hispanic Americans feel marginalised.
The markets you operate in may have minority groups which feel unrepresented too, and your brand can engage them and win loyal fans with tailored marketing strategies. You might include localised websites and marketing campaigns translated and transcreated to fit the group’s culture and beliefs.
Applying this idea back to translation reminds us of Visit Britain’s campaign to make Chinese visitors to the UK feel more welcome. The problem was that a vast number of Chinese tourists visit the UK every year -, however they struggle to adapt to the language barrier and found that typical tourist information like pamphlets and signs were not translated into Chinese.
Visit Britain’s campaign asked Chinese visitors to come up with alternative Chinese names for British hotspots, examples included The Shard as ‘Zhai Xing Ta’, meaning “The tower that allows us to pluck stars from the sky”, then there’s the famous Welsh village of “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch” – known for weather reporter Liam Dutton’s perfect pronunciation – being renamed to “Jian Feu Cun” meaning “Healthy lung village”.
Does your business rely on Chinese tourism? Read our guide on how your business can be more welcoming to Chinese visitors.
R29Somos in their own words
The editorial lead for R29Somos, Thatiana Diaz, explained the purpose for the new media brand: “The community that R29Somos aims to serve is one that is growing but underserved and underrepresented by the media. Coverage of and for Latinx people also tends to lack nuance”.
She continued: “The way that I grew up in the Dominican Republic wouldn’t be the same way that someone Mexican grew up in Los Angeles, or someone Cuban grew up in Miami. “But many times, the way that we’re covered is as if we’re all the same. There’s so much diversity within our community that we felt this could be highlighted in an accurate way. We’re making that a priority in all our storytelling.”
This goes to show the opportunities that are up for grabs when brands engage in community outreach in a bid to understand and better serve the communities that utilise their services.
Countries which speak a number of languages
Australia, Mexico and the United States don’t have an official language. Of course, the most spoken language in Australia and the US is English, but the US has a rising number of East Asian immigrants and Spanish speakers, as well as Native American tongues, while Australia has a number of Chinese, Italian and Vietnamese immigrants plus many Aboriginal languages.
The country with the most languages spoken is Papa New Guinea with a staggering 820 languages spoken by a population of just 5.5 million. Indonesia comes in second place with 742 languages spoken by 241 million people, while in Nigeria 516 languages are spoken by 129 million people.
The country does not equal the language
As you can see country certainly doesn’t automatically equal language, despite the assumptions we make. As a business leader, you can’t afford to make assumptions about your customers.
The more you understand about how specific audience segments see themselves the better you can serve them with messages that resonate with their beliefs and their identities.
At Bubbles we work with native speakers from countries all over the world, so any translation we create for you can be clearly understood by your target market, and is written in a way which makes them feel understood and represented.