An interesting discussion about “neutral” Spanish is being developed on our LinkedIn Forum. Executives from the Hispanic media and advertising world are giving their opinion about this issue. To join us login with your LinkedIn account here.
Marcela Riano – Owner/Program Director at Young Rembrandts El Paso
“At Hispanic VIP we do spanish radio productions and spanish voice overs. Many times clients request neutral spanish voice over… can anyone be really neutral? or do we feel it neutral because is more familiar to our ears?… I personally think there are professional voices overs that can reduce their accent and that can be useful when we are targeting a broad market. But sometimes is more relevant to use a mexican accent or a an accent from Costa Rica. It depends on the script or the project.
Also, there is something very IMPORTANT we have to take care of our beautiful spanish. I know there is different terminology to name one object… straw for example (pitillo, pajilla, popote…) But it doesn't mean that there aren't universal grammar rules. In Hispanic VIP we believe in correct and proper Spanish.Visit us at www.hispanicvip.com”
Felipe Korzenny, Ph.D. – Director, Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at FSU • “Unfortunately there is no neutral Spanish as there is no neutral English or no neutral version of any language. We all learn and perform our language ability in a cultural context.”
Fernando Estrada – Director Hispanic Marketing at Eclipse Marketing Services • “I was born and raised in New York City and was fortunate at a young age to spend my summer vacations in Colombia S.A. From a young age I noticed that the Spanish Language had many flavors. Returning from vacations I recall being able to really distinguish when my friends spoke to their Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and Argentinean parents. These vibrant colors of our Spanish language will never go dim.
Having said this, I do believe a neutral Spanish does exist and should be used especially when communicating on a national level within U.S. markets. The basic criteria of communication or an accent is that one should understand what the other person is saying and vice versa. A “neutral accent” is just a manner of speaking a language without regionalism. I have traveled to a few of our united “States” and noticed that when listening to the local news broadcasts followed by the National Nightly News you can note the apparent distinctions between regional accents and the more national “neutral English” of the network Anchor personalities, (My experience is that of Wisconsin, South Dakota, Boston and Chicago).
Bottom line – When running national Hispanic ad campaigns I suggest to use a more natural Spanish diction, when media buys are more regional, direct the Spanish used to the mutual populace.
Marcelo Salup – Principal at MS Group LLC • “Accents are one of the most common ways to differentiate classes… ves? O sea… we use them to let someone know we belong in their group, güey, or that they don't belong in ours (chauffeurs in Spain are always "usted". Neutral Spanish –even if it existed and I agree with Dr. Korzenny that it doesn't– would also be undesirable in communications, as it would strip the product from some aspects of its personality. Doesn't mean you run advertising directed at Mexicans with a Venezuelan accent or –heaven forbid– a Porteño accent! But there needs to be inflection, tone, diction and all the other elements in our spoken language for it to communicate.”
Gustavo A. Bujanda – Public Relations Vice President • “I think there is an accepted 'neutral' accent, especially for news coverage and reporting.”
J. Gerardo López – Latino Media and Community expert • “I do not think there is such a thing as "neutral" Spanish. For me, an effective communication in Spanish, and any language, has more to do with the understanding of an audience. If a communicator knows his/her audience well, he/she knows how to talk and what words to use in talking to that audience. Someone with an Argentinian accent can effectively talk to a Mexican audience, if the Argentinian knows how the Mexican thinks and talks and applies that knowledge in the delivery of his/her message.”
Marcelo Salup – Principal at MS Group LLC • “Easier said than done. An Argentine talking to Mexicans… and viceversa has a failure rate of over 90% I think. There must be an exception somewhere, though.”
Pablo Carrasco – Senior Researcher/Writer, Portada • “What happens when a “neutral Spanish” voice is heard? Imagine Mexican hearing the news or watching a TV program in neutral Spanish, imagine a Cuban, a Peruvian, an Ecuadorian, a Colombian, an Argentinian… none of them would have a clear identification with that voice. All of them would probably understand what is being said but none would totally identify with the content. For advertisers looking for branding its difficult that neutral Spanish really works.
We have those two opposite poles: getting the message understood by every Spanish-speaking living creature on earth or going after some kind of accent to get a strong connection with a particular Spanish-speaking audience. Neutral Spanish tries be "it", but it really is the light at the end of the tunnel that we’ll never reach.”
Carlos de León de la Riva – VP US Hispanic Market at Kitelab • “I think “neutrality” has a larger correlation with the context, not necessarily the language. According to our recent Syndicated study Hispanics look for discourses more than cultural identity.
Beyond the play of identity between their American side and their Hispanic side, they look for discourses that allow them to construct an individuality independent of their cultural context.
Neutral discourses that adopt values rather than cultures offer them the chance to establish their own stamp of personality beyond any context.”
Guias Local – Chairman and CEO at Guias Local • “I believe it is important to offer neutral Spanish for nationally run radio and TV campaigns in the U.S. IMHO, it is also necessary to connect with consumers in their cultural context (i.e., an audience in Texas near the border of Mexico). From my many years of local advertising experience, email and social campaigns that are tailored according to the local audience increase conversions and ultimately increase your ROI for a campaign.”
Manuel Huici – President – CCO at Cinco Talentos Creative Services • “Lets say we have to run a Radio campaign. The use of a specific and natural accent could be very helpful depends of the place the radio will run. Accents are part of our cultural insights. But I agree on the use of a neutral accent for a TV show host or a national campaign (when the nationality of the character is not relevant for the idea).”
Bernardo Lessa-Bastos – BLANQUIER – Real Marketing • "Ideally the tone and messaging should be tweaked for each and every hispanic community. However, this does not exist (budget, costs, timing, etc…) thus do we go Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Etc..? What about Latin America & Pan-Regional Campaigns? We can't have a Mexican or Argentine VO across the board. Even tough there is no "Neutral Spanish" there is the "Acceptable Spanish" across the board and that would be the Colombian without the slangs or regionalistic jargons. Same applies to the Caribbean (in English, French, Creole, Etc…) Happy Friday!!!"