Say... whaaaat?


Not really, but they could have, and they would have gone right along with the naked airline traveler. The truth is, these are all horrible translation errors that were caught by a qualified translator before they ended up in print or on-camera… except for one. The naked airline traveler actually made it to broadcast! A semi-fluent translator unsuccessfully translated “our passengers fly in leather seats” as “nuestros pasajeros vuelan en cueros" or "our passengers fly naked." Can you imagine the client fallout from that blunder!!!!

I recently contracted with a company in Los Angeles to help out with bilingual casting and production. Honestly, I was surprised the company requested help with casting. As a native speaker of Spanish, and a life-long bilingual talent, I have filled many roles throughout my career: copywriter, translator, voice talent, on-camera, and dialogue supervisor for Spanish-language production. The one call I don’t often get is CASTING SUPPORT! I was surprised because so many companies depend on semi-fluent employees or acquaintances to sign off on one of the most important elements of any production: the people who are actually going to say the words! I imagine their final product will be far superior to another production I was involved in.

I was hired to act as dialogue supervisor on a production where the company had an acquaintance sign off on the Spanish talent; someone who was not a native speaker. They lucked out with two or three talents being native or near-native Spanish speakers, but there were several who had large speaking roles who DID NOT SPEAK SPANISH!

What a challenge! Sitting with the non-native speakers, going over lines and practicing words that would prove challenging throughout the production. The lack of casting foresight resulted in the redistribution of dialogue to the native speakers; frustrating, and imperfect takes of each shot, longer production sessions, and ultimately, a product that was not of the highest quality. It was too late to re-cast.

If they had taken the step to hire a native speaker to review casting tapes or sit in on the casting session, they would have incurred the expense of a consultant, but they also would have saved time and money during the production; not to mention that they would have ended up with a much higher quality end product for their client.

You can get the best copywriters and translators in the industry, but if your talent is semi-fluent you could end up with an absolute disaster.

With the rapidly-changing demographic in our country, the reality is that our communications, advertising, and education must keep pace. Providing effective print, audio and video media to our potential customer bases means that, not only must we communicate in Spanish, but now, more than ever, we must communicate in quality, native Spanish. We have a huge number of first-generation Spanish speakers entering the United States. To put out non-native Spanish just won’t pass muster with our newer immigrants and Spanish-dominant customer base.

This is one more instance where the following holds so true: If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, just wait until you hire an amateur. Or, as we say in Spanish, “Lo barato sale caro” (The bargain ends up being expensive).


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