In our second installment of “Chronicles across the pond,” Juan Manuel invites us to reflect on the much used marketing and advertising practice of interspersing English terms in our Spanish speech, and asks: Is it a question of vanity, habit, knowledge or ignorance?
Translated by Candice Carmel
In recent years we have seen the birth, growth, development and death of countless businesses and communication models that promised to be “the last and final…” before disappearing, leaving nothing more than a trail of empty links on search engines. Of all these, only a few seem to have stuck around for good, bringing with them terms, usage, and language that we are obliged to incorporate into a jargon that increasingly distances us from pure Spanish.
For many, this coexistence is harmonious, but in my opinion it sets up elephant traps that make understanding more difficult rather than facilitating it. Being old, doubting, and somewhat anarchic in my methods and rules, I’ve been able to prove the following and invite you to do the same:
In any meeting among Internet professionals, you can be sure that after a few minutes, you will have heard several English terms pronounced, which no one asks for translation or explanation. If you want to check the perversity of this common situation, all you need to do is interrupt the meeting and ask what each person at the table perceives is the meaning of the terms just used.
The results are shocking and I heartily recommend putting it to the test. My experience tells me that each person will define the word or term differently, which has the direct result of making understanding impossible.
What to do? Although I haven’t found the magic formula, there are some common sense tips that usually work:
1. Set or find a consensus on the meaning of the term used. For example, if we use the term Real Time Bidding, ask if the whole table understands that we are talking about buying and selling online display advertising in real time, one ad impression at a time, and what that implies.
2. Pick and choose the terms that generate the best and broadest consensus, and define them. Translate the rest without embarrassment and if someone switches back to the English term, ask that person what they understand to be the word’s real meaning. If they are switching back to English, he or she may have a different idea as to what the word means.
3. Find a consensus. You can use the Spanish glossary published by the IAB as a reference: http://www.iabspain.net/glosario/
4. Beware of sounding foolish in an effort to appear modern: One thing is to be informed, but quite another is to be a pedantic snob who hides his ignorance behind abstruse terms.
It is not necessary to substitute normal terms with a meta-language no one can understand. This is a fatal error that disqualifies us from the start. Typically, when someone knows a topic inside out, he or she knows how to explain it in easy and accessible terms. Genius is not hidden inside dark terms; mediocrity is.
If we stick to these simple criteria, we will see that agreement on terms makes it easier to monitor and follow-up on actions, and everyone will know where they stand. The Spanish language will also suffer less and show that it can be plastic, flexible and generous when it comes to incorporating Anglicisms.
All we need to know are which “ones” are really here to stay.
Juan Manuel is a media and advertising professional since the 80s, he has worked in many areas related to advertising management, such as media buying for TV and print. Since 1994, he has worked on Internet-related sales, purchasing, and management. For the past three+ years, Beltrán has been in charge of the Spain Business Development at Improve Digital, a company dedicated to optimizing inventory for editors.