BY Dian Hasan and Eduardo Caccia

The role of culture in brand-building is indisputable, and language is naturally a significant component of this. However, this may not necessarily be applicable across the board, for all age groups.

America is a melting pot and polyglot of fresh talent, the foundation of the nation is built on the sweat, tears, and hard work of immigrants, who bring with them not only their talent, skill-set, and abilities, but also their language, customs and distinctive cultural behavior. This is what makes America great, and it is a tradition that continues to this day.

So it’s logical to think of the importance of using Spanish when communicating with and engaging the U.S. Hispanic market. But this simple approach does not work across all age groups. It has to do with fitting in, and not standing out.

We know first-hand the value of fitting in. As children, we were accustomed to moving around across different countries, cultures and languages. The first thing any kid wants at school (and, most importantly, on the playground) is to be accepted as part of the group. The first “weapon of choice” is always the mastery of the language, replete with all the slang and colloquial expressions. The consequence of humiliation is well-known in any kid’s mind. It may be okay to look and dress differently, but the common denominator that brings everyone together is language.

For the young Hispanic, this translates to mastering the English language at an early age, and fitting in. This is the young ones’ symbolic value, and this is what becoming American means to them. It also comes, unfortunately, with the rejection of their Latin identity.

Consequently, they are creating a new identity, where language becomes a tool of expression that is on-code with the hybrid new culture of this new generation of first-born Americans.

As generations of immigrants before them, this transformation and metamorphosis phase are common, as seen in the wave of Italians, Germans, Eastern European Jews, Greeks, Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese, Armenians, Lebanese and Syrians before them.

So while the option of having “Español” buttons and “Español” call centers may be treasured by plenty of Hispanics, the vast majority might not care that much.

Some assume that Hispanics don’t speak or want to speak English, which is false. Acculturated Hispanics, those who have incorporated American cultural codes, including language, feel comfortable enough to use English. These individuals are usually referred to as the “second or third U.S.-born generation” and, for many of them, mainly when they are teens, speaking Spanish is a sign of inferiority, they don’t want to go “back” from where their parents came. They want to be American not Hispanic.

As they mature, however, they will find a need to know their roots (this is a reptilian act) and within that search, many will regret not speaking Español anymore.

And all this is without talking about the type of Español brands need to address. Mexican-Americans and, by definition, “wherever you come from” Americans have developed a new symbolic language, creating new words and expression that blend their mother tongue with English.


Dian Hasan is a San-Diego based brand storyteller and business innovator at MindCode, a U.S.-based branding, innovation and consumer research company. He has worked with MindCode clients in the consumers goods, retail, hospitality and tourism industries in the U.S., Mexico and Argentina.

Eduardo Caccia is VP of “Any Possibilities” and cofounder of Mindcode, a U.S.-based innovation, research and brand positioning company. He is a co-creator of the brandgenetic tools and a pioneer of the integration of social sciences into research to better understand consumer behavior.

Story courtesy: MediaPost Engage:Hispanics

2 thoughts on “Must Use Spanish, Verdad? Not Necessarily!”
  1. This rings very true for me. As a Nicaraguan who was born & grew up in Miami, then moved to Nicaragua, then attended college in Boston, and then returned to Nicaragua — English is *still* my language of choice. Spanglish may be what comes out of my mouth easiest, but when it comes to corporate communications and advertising, I’ll take English over Spanish any day.

  2. Great topic!!!

    having had a significant presence online for close to 15 years in the Latino niche, I can count on two hands how many times people have asked me to translate or provide bi-lingual content.

    I am fully bi-lingual and would be prepared to give that to my readership if they wanted it…there just does not seem to be a demand for it in a demographic that is second generation (or above) Latino in the United States.

    Like Marcella said>>> Spanglish may be the midddleground on my blog but “but when it comes to corporate communications and advertising, I’ll take English over Spanish any day.”

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