One of the obstacles you will face in creating voice messages for a global audience is that each and every language contains its own nuances and rules, nuances and rules that can utterly deform your message if you aren’t careful. Today, we want to talk about just one example of the kind of thing that would never occur to someone writing and speaking in the English language, and that is the way in which some languages have gender-specific versions when written and spoken. Specifically, we are going to look at masculine vs. feminine Spanish.
Gendered language is very common among the Romance languages, which is the term given to modern languages that evolved from “Vulgar Latin”, which was the spoken language common among the Roman Empire during its later stages. I don’t know how relevant this information is to you developing a voice message, but I think it’s neat and who knows, maybe it’ll help you win on Jeopardy someday. Anyway! The most common Romance languages are Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, Catalan, and, of course, Spanish.
So when you are creating your recording in Spanish, you must take into consideration that in Spanish, nouns have a gender. There are both masculine nouns and feminine nouns, and while the rules about which is which are fairly easy to grasp, there are of course exceptions. This is why you must be scrupulous when prepping the voice translation that will be used for the eventual recording.
In Spanish, feminine nouns can be identified, usually, as words ending in -A, such as “la manzana”. Other feminine endings including -cion (as in “la cancion”), -dad and -tad (as in “la felicdad”), -ez and -triz (as in “le actriz”), and -tud and -umbre (as in “la multitude” and “la incertidumbre”). Along with full nouns, letters G, O, and Ñ are considered feminine and take the feminine article.
On the other hand, if a word ends in -O, it is almost certainly a masculine word. Other masculine endings include -or (as in “el amore”), -aje (as in “el traje”) and -an (as in “el pan”). Numbers, colors, days of the week, months of the year, directions, and most geographical related nouns are all considered masculine.
Of Course It’s Never That Simple
So these rules seem relatively straightforward, but there are, as always, nuances and exceptions to consider while developing a script to be sent to a voiceover talent. There are some masculine nouns that end in -A. And, yes, there are some feminine nouns that end in -O. And there are professions, like “estudiante” where the ending letter remains the same regardless of gender and instead only the article is updated to reflect the subject, i.e. “la estudiante” and “el estudiante”.
Having this awareness is vitally important, especially when you are building out IVR prompts. Whereas professional voiceover talents might be able to step in and correct a translation for a full prompt, IVR prompts are created as individual audio fragments that are then assembled piecemeal around existing elements and customer interactions. Modifiers and prepositions hinge on the gender of the noun within the sentence, and they will not line up properly unless these considerations have been made before the script is provided to the voiceover talents.
As with so many of the other topics that we have discussed, determining between masculine vs. feminine Spanish when creating a voice message does not have to be an arduous task. As long as you take the time, ask the right questions, and utilize knowledgeable, professional resources, you can create voice recordings that are clear, concise, and perfectly tailored to a global customer base.
We would like to finish off by thanking the exceptionally talented voice artist Roxanne, who performs in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, for providing us with keen insights into this subject matter.
And for more information on masculine vs. feminine Spanish, please peruse articles like How to identify masculine and feminine nouns in Spanish and Masculine & Feminine in Spanish. These sites were a huge resource in creating this article, and there’s even more information to be found within those links.