Talk to Me in Spanglish:

Spanglish in the Advertising Industry

By Alissa Llort, Planning Intern  

Today, Hispanics in the US are speaking more English than before, but at the same time the use of Spanish is as high as ever, with 37 million Hispanics 5 years or older speaking Spanish at home (Pew Research) Many are growing up as skillful bilinguals, blending both native tongues to meet their needs in every situation. The transition is seamless, as their brains automatically switch from one language to the other. Speaking a mix of both enables them to express themselves in ways that better represent their everyday experiences.

When it comes to advertising, one of the most important tactics when trying to catch consumers’ attention is language. Without communicating in a relevant way, you risk losing your audience’s attention immediately, if you ever get it to begin with. There is a clear role in the way language is utilized that goes beyond simple translations, and when led by cultural insights as a guide, brands can pull from both English and Spanish to connect with Hispanic consumers in a natural way.

In the ad #BetweenTwoWorlds for AT&T, each person explains how, through their unique blending of languages, they are able to express themselves better and connect with family and friends. For instance, one of them mentions how he speaks English when he is mad and Spanish when he is happy. This ad is specifically connecting with ambicultural, tech savvy millennials, understanding their experiences with a mixture of American and Hispanic backgrounds.

To reach this specific audience, brands have to deeply understand Spanglish and authentically communicate their message. In Media Post’s article, the author mentions how it is important to “combine languages, but don’t tangle the words,” or like the Spanish saying suggests: juntos pero no revueltos. Spanglish is hard to define because there are no established rules, it is just a combination of languages as a result of two blending cultures. For this same reason, it is important to notice how people are using the combinations to keep the message relevant and clear. As a native Spanish speaker, it is easier to distinguish an ad that uses Spanglish in a culturally relevant way, however these unspoken rules are hard to catch if you didn’t grow up within a Hispanic culture.

The use of Spanglish is tricky because brands do not want to offend or disconnect with their consumers. Terms like “lonche”, “wachar”, “printear” and other Spanglish words can be seen as lazy, informal slang, or even disrespectful wording to certain audiences. These terms may also be relevant to only one group, but not to other Hispanics. After all, Hispanics are made up of multiple cultures, and it is not a one-size-fits-all audience. Advertisers need to be very thoughtful when using Spanglish in their spots to avoid any misunderstandings.

So how do we get this right?

  • Think about who you want to target when including slang. These words may be defined differently across Latin American countries.
  • When aiming for a formal tone, preferably avoid using Spanglish.
  • Keep it authentic! The Spanglish you use should have a purpose that you want to communicate to your audience.
  • Be sure to check the brand’s message with a native Spanish speaking copywriter or copy editor.

 

Here are some of my favorite examples of work where brands incorporated both languages to create a unique message that connects with Hispanics:

  • “My Tide” for Tide:
    • In this ad, a grandma explains why she uses Tide in Spanish with the help of her millennial granddaughter that translates for her. This spot connects with “both worlds,” foreign and US born Hispanics, as they alternate both languages to communicate the message clearly to two different target audiences.

  • “Beautifully Bilingual” for Xfinity:
    • This short ad captures the essence of blending English and Spanish to create a unique, but at the same time powerful message that connects with the target audience. Throughout the video, they use a play on words to break that barrier between the two languages and make it one.

As portrayed in the above examples, the unique aspect about Spanglish is that it opens the door for the combination of two cultures, creating an interesting twist between both worlds. Ultimately, however, it’s the combination of cultural cues with the use of language that creates truly relatable ads.

 


Alissa is proud to be 100% Salvadoran, experiencing Dallas with fresh new eyes and bringing her own culture in everything she does. She loves to focus on the small, unnoticed details in life, turning ideas upside down to unveil new perspectives.

 

Dieste Inc
gsosa@dieste.com