Latino Family

Why should you be targeting the Hispanic population?

Compiled by Cynthia Penovi

This article is mainly a compilation of extracts from the 59-page analysis by Tamara Cabrera titled The Translation and Interpreting Industry in the United States. For more information and a complete list of references, read her analysis here.


  • Your business will grow and distinguish itself from the competition.
    According to a survey of Fortune 500 companies by Common Sense Advisory –a global think tank that performs research on international communication trends–, companies that translate their online material were found to be 1.5 times more likely to experience an increase in revenue. When you become able to speak to more of these users, you gain the competitive advantage.


  • Hispanics are the fastest growing population in the U.S.
    According to a Pew Research Center analysis of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, between 1970 and 2014 the Hispanic population grew 592%, expanding from 9.1 million to 53 million (Krogstad 2014). According to the most recent US Census data, by April 2015, there were 57 million U.S. Hispanics out of a total population of 321 million Americans (Krogstad 2016), accounting for a 17% of the total population. The Pew Research Center forecasts that the Hispanic population will grow to 106 million out of 398 million, and to 119 million by 2060 (Passel and Cohn 2008) This projected shift would raise the number of Hispanics from 17.8% to over a quarter of the total U.S. population by 2020, then up to 26.6% by 2050 and then up to 31% by 2060 (Krogstad and López 2014).


          Numbers of Spanish Speakers in the U.S. Pew Research Center and U. S. Census Bureau:

Hispanics in US up to 2050


  • Hispanics are the largest minority in the U.S.
    Hispanics are the largest minority in the US, outnumbering African-Americans (45 million). According to Nielsen, a global information and measurement company: “If U.S. Hispanics were a country, (…) they would be the 24th largest nation in the world after Italy larger than Spain and more than twice the size of Australia” (Pardo and Dreas 2011: 1).


  • The U.S. is now the world’s second largest Spanish-speaking country (ibid.; Fernández Vítores 2016).
    This puts the U.S. ahead of Colombia (48 million) and Spain (46 million) and second only to Mexico (121 million).


  • Spanish is the most spoken non-English language in the U.S., with more than 41 million native speakers plus 11 million who are bilingual.


  • Hispanics rank the highest among the LEP population.
    “LEP” stands for “Limited English Proficiency”, and this term refers to any person above the age of 5 who reported speaking English less than very well, as classified by the Census Bureau. As of 2013, 16.2 million LEP people spoke Spanish, out of 25.1 million total approximately.


  • Laws are changing in favor of language access for Hispanics and the LEP population.
    Hispanics have become the main recipients of the translation and interpreting services implemented as result of the enforcement of Language Access legislation (namely (i) the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (ii) the LEP Executive Order and (iii) the LEP Guidances 2002).


  • The Hispanic buying power alone makes the Hispanic market within the U.S. one of the most important World Economies.
    U.S. Hispanics’ disposable income has sextupled between 1990 and 2014, reaching an estimated $1.25 trillion in 2014. This makes up approximately a 10% of total U.S. buying power. As of 2014, the buying power of U.S. Hispanics was 1.3 trillion dollars higher than that of other minorities (African-American, $1.1 trillion and Asians $770 billion) (López et al. ibid.). As suggested by Pardo and Dreas (2011: 1): “If U.S. Hispanics were a country, they would rank as the 12th largest economy in the world.”


  • Hispanics are the population of the future and the community you will be serving.
    According to The Economist (2015: 2) Hispanics are making America much younger. In fact, the median age of whites is 42, African-Americans 32, Hispanics 28, and American-born Hispanics 18. While white and non-white women have been having fewer children since 2011, Hispanic women’s fertility maintains an average of 2.4 children, expected to replenish the supply of future workers.


  • Hispanics are the entrepreneurs of the future –and your future business partners.
    The number of Hispanic-owned companies has been steadily growing since 2002. Estimates from the 2007 Survey of Business Owners conducted by Geoscape, a leading business intelligence firm that operates within the framework of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, shows that from 2002 to 2007 the number of Hispanic-owned firms increased by 44%. This figure is more than double the 15% increase in the number of non-Hispanic companies. Between 2007 and 2015, the growth rate has increased to a 57% as a result of the increased activity in entrepreneurship among Hispanics, a gain of over 407 million dollars (Melgoza and Palomares 2015: 3).

          Number of Hispanic-Owned Businesses in the U.S. Source: Melgoza and Palomares (2015: 1):

number of hispanic owned businesses


  • Language plays a key role in Hispanic culture and identity.
    U.S. companies are spending money researching effective techniques to tap on this market (Hoag 2015). If in 2003 companies such as Procter&Gamble or AT&T spent $3.4 billion on Hispanic campaigns, by 2013 that figure had almost tripled to $8.3 billion, far outpacing the general market’s increase. According to the second-quarter 2012 Nielsen Report titled State of the Hispanic Consumer: The Hispanic Market Imperative (Nielsen 2012), Hispanic consumers are 30% more likely to recall an ad if it was presented in Spanish. Furthermore, 71% of Hispanics are more likely to buy a product if it is advertised in Spanish. Suggested reasons for this effect are that Spanish ads create a deeper personal connection to Hispanic consumers, and Hispanics are less likely to time shift Spanish-language programming (Taylor et al. 2012). This explains why U.S. companies are increasingly interested in adapting their products to the Hispanic consumer, both linguistically and culturally. The demographic growth of U.S. Hispanics and the high retention rate of Spanish in households have contributed to the growth of the Spanish Language in the U.S. Unlike other immigrant groups, Hispanics believe it is highly important to preserve the language and the culture. As a result, they tend to preserve the language and the culture far beyond other groups, such as European migrants. A study developed in 2013 found that by third generation, only a small number of Europeans maintains bilingualism (Steinmetz et al. 2015: 17.). In contrast, the percentage of Hispanic households that spoke Spanish remained consistently at about 75% from 1980 to 2010 (Hugo López and González-Barrera 2013).

Tamara Cabrera’s analysis is enlightening and very useful to understand the current trends in the U.S. and why it would be beneficial to invest in translation services, no matter what your industry is. The Hispanic population has become a key market, and professional translators are the only experts with the necessary cultural and linguistic background to reach this community effectively.


False Friends: the Adoption of Foreign Terminology in English<>Spanish Medical Translation and Interpretation

Written by Paula Penovi
ATA-Certified Translator and Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI-Spanish)

As a linguist working at a hospital, it is not uncommon to notice languages merge and blend into each other, adopting foreign terms and structures and converging into a complex hybrid language. As we all know, communication is critical to ensure successful healthcare. Lexical borrowings, calques and literal translations that may sound natural to the untrained ear could end up leading away from the meaning that was originally conveyed, while contributing to the impoverishment and erosion of the target language.

That is why today I am going to share some insight into four of the most common false friends that I have encountered in the medical setting, their polysemy and some lexical equivalents and alternatives. False friends (also known as false cognates) are words that look very similar and appear to be translation equivalents, but which actually have different meanings in different languages.

Since we are focusing on some of the most frequent terms that an interpreter or translator will encounter on an everyday basis, the first place must go to ‘condition,’ when it is translated as condición. Quoting Dr. Fernando Navarro, whenever this word is used to refer to a defective state of health, it can be translated as enfermedad (skin condition = enfermedad cutánea), proceso (pathologic conditions = procesos patológicos), dolencia, afección (surgical condition = afección quirúrgica), trastorno or cuadro clínico. Whenever it refers to the particular state that something or someone is in, it can be translated as estado (critical condition = en estado crítico) or situación (stable condition = en situación estable), and sometimes the interpreter or translator has to use their best judgement and choose a translation based on the context, as in the case of ‘clinical condition’ (cuadro clínico, estado clínico or situación clínica).

Another word that I hear mistranslated a lot is ‘severe.’ It is not uncommon to find severo used as an equivalent, term which in Spanish means ‘strict, tough, harsh in treatment or punishment’ and is only used to describe the character of a person. In English, it can have many different meanings: grave (severe condition = en estado grave), intenso (severe pain = dolor intenso, agudo), fuerte (a severe blow to the head = un fuerte golpe en la cabeza) or extenso (severe psoriasis = soriasis extensa). It goes without saying that sometimes only the context can define the most accurate translation for this term: for example, ‘he had a severe loss of blood’ could be translated as ‘perdió mucha sangre’.


In 1980, a patient was taken to a hospital in a coma and his family used the word intoxicado to refer to his condition, since they thought his symptoms were caused by something he had eaten. This word was mistranslated as ‘intoxicated’ during the encounter, and in consequence the doctor immediately made a misdiagnosis of drug overdose, causing the patient to become quadriplegic at age 18. There is a lot to say about this false friend, but we can start with the fact that, in Spanish, intoxicado refers to food poisoning (intoxicación alimentaria, toxinfección alimentaria), while in English ‘intoxicated’ is related to the effect of alcohol or drugs. During regular medical encounters, the word ‘poisoning’ will most likely refer to intoxicación instead of envenenamiento (malicious poisoning). For instance, accidental poisoning would usually be translated as intoxicación involuntaria and acetaminophen poisoning as intoxicación por paracetamol. While intoxicación might seem to be the best equivalent in this setting, when using a more technical language, translators and interpreters will have to resort to a word ending in ‘–ismo’ in Spanish: cheese poisoning (tirotoxismo), fish poisoning (ictiotoxismo), lead poisoning (saturnismo) and blood poisoning (toxemia or septicemia), among others.

Last but not least, I would like to discuss one of my personal favorites, a Gallicism widely used both in English and Spanish: the term ‘control.’ Even though it seems easy to avoid translating this term literally in cases such as ‘birth control’ (regulación de la natalidad, reducción de la natalidad, anticoncepción) or ‘centers for disease control’ (centros de epidemiología), we tend to be unoriginal when faced with verbal phrases and collocations that come up all the time during medical encounters. For instance, we tend to stay in our comfort zone and resort to this word when translating phrases such as ‘controlar una hemorragia’ (detener, restañar), ‘controlar la tensión arterial’ (medir, vigilar, estabilizar, normalizar), ‘control de la temperatura corporal’ (regulación), ‘controlar los efectos de una sobredosis’ (neutralizar), ‘controlar una anemia’ (corregir); the list could go on forever. In this regard, Dr. Fernando Navarro presents an exhaustive list of alternative translations for this term in his dictionary, and I believe it would be interesting to mention a few to shed light on the variety of linguistic choices the Spanish language has to offer: getting/to get a situation under control (dominar una situación), control of an epidemic (contención de una epidemia), disease control (lucha contra las enfermedades), control visit (consulta de revisión), food control laboratory (laboratorio de bromatología), self-control (autodominio), temperature control (termorregulación), case-control study (estudio de casos y testigos).

After exploring all these equivalents, one wonders why it is so easy to forget the richness and beauty of our native language and to embrace this constant influx of foreign terminology. Only professional translators and interpreters can at all times recognize this dilution of language and make the most accurate choice in the right context. Continuing education plays a key role in helping us celebrate our own lexical items and structures, value them and avoid these frequent and deep-rooted mistranslations. This is only one of the reasons why there needs to be an emphasis on certified translators and interpreters in the medical field. If you are seeking translation or interpreting services, make sure you choose your language professionals wisely. In the long run, the costs of professional services are likely to be far less than the costs of the clinical error claims that may arise from these incidents in a healthcare setting.



Diccionario de dudas y dificultades de traducción del inglés médico, by Fernando A. Navarro
In The Hospital, A Bad Translation Can Destroy A Life, by Kristan Foden-Vencil
Language, Culture, And Medical Tragedy: The Case Of Willie Ramirez, by Gail Price-Wise
Medical English and Spanish cognates: identification and classification, by Lourdes Divasson and Isabel León
Severe: A False Friend, by G. Blasco-Morente, C. Garrido-Colmenero, J. Tercedor-Sánchez and M. Tercedor-Sánchez
Cambridge Dictionary
Online dictionary by Merriam-Webster
The Royal Spanish Academy’s Dictionary

Right-to-Left Languages and the Importance of Professional Localization

Written by Cynthia Penovi

When we want to read a text in English, our eyes naturally move from left to right and top to bottom. It is such a norm for us that we do not even question the directionality of a text. This is because English uses the Latin writing system, and languages that employ that script are left-to-right (LTR) languages. Other popular LRT writing scripts are Cyrillic and Modern Greek.

However, not all scripts share the same writing direction. In fact, there are several languages based on writing systems with a different directionality (or both!). For instance, Farsi speakers read texts horizontally and from right to left, while Chinese and Japanese speakers can produce vertical right-to-left content. Some languages can be written in more than one writing system, and the script chosen can vary according to factors such as geography, politics, age, religion and demographics. Among the most popular right-to-left scripts, we can find Arabic, Hebrew and Urdu. This means that any material produced for those target markets will not only require translation, but it will also need to undergo an extensive localization process to ensure natural text flow for consumers.

The problem with direction is not only limited to text. It applies to the entire layout of a document, including its pictures and numbering. In almost all cases, pages will need to be mirrored (flipped horizontally) to match the requirements of RTL languages, and everything that is located on the right portion of a page will have to be placed on the left side instead. There are exceptions, of course. In Arabic, barcodes are displayed from left to right, and the directionality of numbers and figures does not change either.


Layout of the CNN website in Arabic and English


What does this mean for our translation needs? It means that it is essential to find a language services provider that can truly professionally localize our content and provide us with multilingual desktop publishing to tackle these issues. Effective localization services will help you improve customer satisfaction, meet cultural standards, fit local target requirements and enter new markets successfully.