5 Spanish Voice Recording Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Congratulations! For years, you’ve been using professional English-speaking voice talents for IVR voice prompts, auto attendant systems, and on hold messages…and now you’re ready to establish credibility with your Spanish-speaking customers with professional voice recordings in their native language.

Do it right and you’ll strengthen and nurture these key relationships. Do it wrong and you’ll have a Spanish omelette all over your face. Here are the pitfalls you may find along the path, and ways to navigate around them:

Pitfall #1:  Not considering specific geography

As the expression goes, a rose is a rose is a rose, but Spanish is not just Spanish. Picking a Spanish-speaking voice talent whose country of birth and regional dialect is completely different than the target audience is a credibility killer. The most obvious disconnect is not distinguishing between European Spanish and Latin American Spanish voice recordings, but sometimes regional variation becomes a consideration. In general, most companies doing business in Latin America prefer a neutral Latin American Spanish accent, but oftentimes companies fail to ask the voice talent what their country of origin is, or get an independent assessment from a person with intimate knowledge of the region. This results in a voice talent with a regional accent (say, Mexican or Chilean) being chosen, which may not appeal to a pan-Latin American customer base. In other cases, a regional accent for Spanish voice recordings is preferred, which can sound more authentic and build credibility.

Solution: Understand early on which countries the calls will be coming from, and what accent preferences the sponsoring organization might have. Then ask what country the prospective voice talent is from, and if they’ve relocated, how long they’ve been away from their birth country. Accents can fade over time, and may not sound as authentic.

Pitfall 2:  Not using a certified translator

Language translation is a learned skill and one requiring a precise and nuanced understanding of grammar and syntax. Yet under the stress of deadlines, many organizations short cut the translation process by using any available Spanish-speaking employee to translate very well-thought out and sometimes technical English IVR voice prompt or on hold messaging text into their own unique brand of Spanish. This results in errors with consequences ranging from mildly embarrassing to outright damaging.

Solution: Use a professional translator who is certified by the American Translation Association (ATA) or is similarly credentialed. Also, ask a native Spanish speaker representative of the target customer to verify the translation BEFORE going to recording. They can navigate cultural minefields, flag potential misinterpretations, and understand when certain Spanish words are gendered (take on masculine or feminine forms) depending on context.

WARNING:  Under no circumstances use a computer-generated translator. The results are better used as fodder for late night comedy shows than for a reputable company trying to professionally represent its brand. Just go and find an automated language converter on Google, type a phrase in in English, and the convert it back. Don’t be surprised to find yourself amused, insulted, or both.

Pitfall #3. Botching company and product names within IVR prompts and auto attendant messages

Unless you can read minds don’t assume anything when asking a voice talent to utter your company name, or any associated product names.

Certain things aren’t always clear to a translator or a voice talent:

  • Should an English brand name be translated? It may differ depending on where the company is doing business.
  • If it’s an acronym, should the letters be spoken in English or Spanish? With or without a Spanish accent?
  • Some brand names are highly stylized, and don’t have exact Spanish equivalents.

In addition, Spanish or Spanish-sounding cities, towns, and addresses may be spoken in English or Spanish, so the same rules apply here.

Solution: Always communicate exactly how these words should be spoken. Providing a phone representation (like what you’d see in a dictionary) is helpful, but having a native speaker say the word is even more so.

Pitfall #4. Not using bilingual voice talents for your voice prompts and messages

Bilingual voice talents can speak both English and Spanish in a neutral, unaccented way. Using separate voice talents is not a pitfall per se, as oftentimes the Spanish callers don’t hear the majority of the English recordings, and vice versa. But if you’ve provided specific guidance in terms of style, pace, energy level, level of formality, etc., in support of accurately conveying the sense of your brand, it is far more effective (and practical) to employ a single voice talent to keep all of these elements consistent.

Tip: Always ask for a sample demo with both languages spoken by the voice talent to verify any bilingual claims. Better yet, provide her or him with a custom script, rather than rely on a standard, canned demo.

Pitfall #5.  Treating Spanish voice messages as an afterthought

I have seen many of our customers pay lip service (pardon the pun) to their Spanish customers by using a great voice talent for English but having an internal employee record in Spanish. This can be particularly damaging if any Spanish recordings are heard in close proximity to English recordings.  If you’re a native English speaker, imagine calling a company and hearing a beautiful Spanish voice, followed by a bored, uninspiring English recording.  Doesn’t make you feel cared for, does it?

Solution: Hire a professionally-trained voice talent to record in Spanish. You will sound professional, empathetic, and genuinely interested in serving this important customer segment.

We invite you to listen to short audio samples of our professional Spanish-speaking Voice Artists (or samples of the over 70 other languages in which we record) at www.marketingmessages.com/voices.   If you’d like to talk to us about an upcoming IVR voice prompt or on hold messages project,  or any voice-related issues, fell free to fill out our Contact Us form.