Yes we can!…improve Obama’s Spanish-language Web site

April 21, 2008

The golden rule when adapting (or trancreating, as some prefer) a marketing message, document or materials into another language is to ensure cultural relevance, which includes linguistic accuracy. In other words, the message or content must mean something to your target audience, and it must be grammatically and orthographically correct.

When developing materials for the Hispanic market, a misspelled word, a missing orthographic accent or a too literal translation of a word can negatively impact communication with the target audience. Even worse, such mistakes can be considered disrespectful to some consumers (like me).

I recently visited Sen. Barack Obama’s official Spanish-language Web site, and I was disappointed to find many orthographic and grammar mistakes in the site. The first problem is evident: in the homepage menu the word Conózcanos appears with an orthographic accent in the last “o” when it should be in the second “o” (Conózcanos vs Conozcanós).

Also, the latest blog entry appears as “Obama Pide que se Establezca Como Dia de Fiesta Nacional el Cumpleanos de Cesar Chavez” (Obama asks that Cesar Chavez’s birthday be considered as a National Holiday) , though the words Día, César and Chávez all should have orthographic accents and the word Cumpleaños should use a “ñ” instead of an “n .” Just for reference, the word ano with an “n” is the Spanish-language word for anus, while the word año with an “ñ” means year, so using Cumpleanos could be misinterpreted.

Obama en Español

The third blog entry includes the following title “Latino Lideres de Ohio Demuestran su Apoyo a Barack Obama . “ The first two words “Latino Líderes” were translated directly from “Latino Leaders” while the correct order of the words should be the inverse “Líderes Latinos”, plus the word líderes should have an accent in the letter “i .” The rest of the text of the entry seems to have been translated with an on-line translation software and not proof read by a Spanish-language speaker. Yet, the text was signed by Conchita Cruz (a Latina name).

The Obama Hispanic team should carefully review the content of the page and avoid these evident mistakes, which are affecting the candidate’s image. A comment in the page’s blog says:

…el castellano escrito en su versión para hispanos debe ser mucho mejor. Hay demasiados errores. Posted by Jose from Chicago, IL
…the Castilian (Spanish) written in the Hispanic version of the page should be improved. There are too many mistakes. Posted by Jose from Chicago, IL

Finally, as a suggestion, the Spanish-language version of the page should also contain quotations from Obama as the English-language one does. Ideally, the page should contain the phrase “¡Sí se puede!” given the phrase’s strong appeal among U.S. Hispanics. (If you want to read more about the origin and usage of the phrase click here.)