Should I Offer Bilingual Documents?

12 Jan 2005|Added Value

There is an ongoing conversation we at Cheskin have with our clients regarding whether or bilingual documents should be used in marketing materials or in contractual documents with the Hispanic market. Both cases are very different and require different approaches. Taking the first case only, our collective experience at Cheskin is that bilingual marketing documents are appropriate for various reasons. Those Hispanics that prefer Spanish as their dominant language express that they feel that they are being taken into account when they receive marketing material that include Spanish language. They also like the English language material as it helps them learn English, especially the technical terms. In addition, Hispanics are aware that it is the English language document that delivers the real promise. Therefore they believe that the English language makes the document more legitimate. The legitimacy brings with it an emotional benefit; namely, respondents describe a feeling like part of the U.S. when they receive these documents in the mail, for example. This latter benefit is more difficult for respondents to describe; being in the US is aspiration, it is part of improving one’s life situation. Once a person commits to staying in the U.S., learning the “lingo” and standard practices becomes crucial. This is especially the case for financial or health related issues, where understanding the U.S. technical jargon can be even more important than learning all other aspects of the language at first.

Clients ask about execution of bilingual documents. Should they translate each line one at a time, should they have bilingual pages side by side or back page/front page, or should they deliver a booklet or brochure in Spanish and another in English? Having recently asked Cheskin’s intercultural team this question, we all collectively agree that the second option is best. The second option allows people to understand one concept at a time, and learn the technical distinctions as full concepts. Below are some responses from various team members.

From Lalo Segovia:
When I conducted multicultural research last year facross 4 different ethnic groups, Scenario #2 was preferred, not only by Hispanics, but also by Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese.

From Carlos Santos:
#2 allows for comparison when needed, while #1 forces comparison and is therefore more difficult to process. #3 can be expensive as well as negate the comparison advantage.

Keep in mind that #2 can be done a couple of different ways: one side English, back side Spanish (sheet); one page English, facing page Spanish (booklet)

From JJ Valera:

Number #2 is the option that most financial institutions are using. I receive communications pieces from three financial institutions: Bofa, Wells Fargo and Banco Popular

From David Sapoznikow
Hi Maria,

I’d go with #2. It’s the one I’ve seen most preferred because it is clearest (one entire area in one language, then a separate one in the other) and also allows readers to check word meanings for best understanding. It’s also the most inclusive and gives the appearance that the same products/services/quality are being offered to everyone.

#1 can get confusing and seem to be a slow read, while #3 does not provide a lot of the benefits of #2

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