Semana Santa or Easter as we know it is without doubt the most popular celebration in Spain. It is primarily a religious festival where you will see many processions walking through the streets with iconic Catholic symbols. It’s a celebration of life and happiness and enjoyed even more with school and public holidays. The perfect time for the Spanish to relax and enjoy an Easter movie with the family.
In the last decade we have seen a rising trend in the demand of Spanish voice overs for dubbing purposes but why is this? Do the Spanish not understand us or are we not understanding the Spanish? And how should you communicate with a Spanish audience?
It is amazing how many people think that everyone in Spain speaks a good level of English but has poor hearing abilities.
How else can we explain the theory that speaking English very loudly will eventually make a Spanish waiter go, “Ah, you want a bacon sandwich without any sauce? Why didn’t you say it very loudly in the first place, my old mucker?”
Of course, some English-speaking visitors go for the much-loved Spanglish approach of just throwing in the odd “por favor” and “gracias” among their English words.
Others adopt the bemusing tactic of adding an “o” to the end of every word that they can’t translate. Sadly, phrases such as “cupo of tea-o, por favor” and “X-factoro on the tellyo, gracias” just don’t cut the mustard.
This leads us on to the incredible growth in demand for translation and Spanish voice overs in recent years. What is the story behind this trend that shows no signs of stopping anytime soon?
The need to translate
The bemused looks on the faces of the locals should tell you that English isn’t universally understood here. Indeed, Spain currently ranks 25th on the global EF English Proficiency Index, just ahead of Bosnia and Herzegovina but a smidgen behind Bulgaria.
One reason that has been given for their relatively poor showing in relation to other European countries – Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden take the first three places in the index – is that Spanish TV channels use a voice over studio to dub most foreign shows and films into their own language.
While viewers in other European countries often see subtitles while listening to the original English voice, the Spanish have the dubious pleasure of Jamie Oliver and Tom Cruise translated and with a thick Iberian masculine voice over.
This dubbing can lead to some awkward moments if not done well, with jokes and puns particularly vulnerable to losing their meaning.
The infamous incident in Game of Thrones where the full name of Hodor was revealed as “Hold the Door” is one painful example of where the translation failed horribly and a whole nation went “¿Qué?” in perfect unison.
It is also worth remembering that pride in their national language is another reason foreign entertainment is typically dubbed into Spanish. It is has been suggested that historically all foreign TV was dubbed to make the Spanish feel more unified under a single language but it is now deeply ingrained in the national culture.
The growth of the Spanish market
In the past, the dubbing of foreign TV shows and movies perhaps wasn’t such a big deal, due to the relatively small market. However, there are now dozens of TV stations in the country (224 according to our stats-loving friends at Wikipedia), many of which are filled with foreign shows.
Then we need to take into account the internet, which incidentally doesn’t translate at “el interneto” for some reason. If you want to reach out to online Spanish customers then what better way is there than with an online video and a voice over recording that they can relate to?
The latest figures suggest that almost 80% of the Spanish population are internet users. These 36 million or so users make it 18th in terms of countries with most people connected to the internet and a powerful market waiting to be explored.
The need to localise
Of course, it isn’t just a question of directly translating the English words to Spanish. Anyone who has ever been embarrassed thanks to Google Translate or other automated tools knows that a human touch is needed in order to make sense in another language.
Localisation is the process of taking content and making it fit another culture and market. This may sound easy but it needs a profound knowledge of the local culture as well as the ability to translate.
By adding the Spanish voice over you are doing more than speaking to them in their own language. In addition, you are reaching out them with something that feels right to them on a cultural level.
The different accents
It is easy to think that all Spanish people speak the same way. Yet, with a population of over 46 million spread over a massive area this is clearly not the case. Just think how many wildly different accents can be found close together in the UK for comparison.
The range of accents is made more noticeable by the fact that many people regularly speak regional languages such as Catalan, Galician or Basque. This means that the regions have even more pronounced differences in how they speak.
This variety of accents makes it easier to find the perfect voice for your needs. For example, the accent from Seville and the surrounding area is typically seen as being a funny, friendly way of speaking that is perfect for comedy and arts.
If you are looking to break into the Spanish market then the right voice over will help you to do this in style.