If Only a Bilingual Self-Esteem Campaign on Influential Latinos Knew Spanish

Today someone sent us a Mashable piece on a new bilingual campaign to raise self-esteem with young Latinos. The campaign, sponsored by American Family Insurance, shows a lot of really adorable young children posing to quotes from influential Latinos in the U.S. and Latin Americans (yes, even Carlos Slim, which was a head-scratcher). Nonetheless, as with any bilingual campaign, the English copy is very strong, while the Spanish lacked really basic items—like correctly spelled words, accents and high-quality translation (psst, bilingual campaigns shouldn’t be just translations of English, but that’s another blog post).

Where do we start? How about the actually campaign title: Forgetting that accent over the “i” in “si” changes the whole meaning of the campaign. It’s no longer, “Because of them, we can;” not adding an accent lets us know, “Because of them, if we can.” Kind of big difference. And don’t tell us the about the myth that Spanish doesn’t use accent on letters in ALL CAPS. In the age of technology, it’s pretty easy to do—“POR ELLOS, SÍ PODEMOS.” You can even do this: MAÑANA, Á, É, Ó and Ú.

Here are other examples of how really poor the Spanish campaign copy is:

The following is the translation for “This self-esteem boosting content is sponsored by American Family Insurance.”


Google Translate, anyone?

Also, the translation for “Campaign Photos” is “Fotos Campaña.” Because, you know.

Then there are these. This one has no accents (tú, trabajarás, día).


¿La oportunidad diferencia? Huh?


Sé fuerte not se fuerte. And while we are at it, what does that quote even mean in Spanish?


Nada puede dejarlo tu roto. Makes no sense again. And psst, Sheila E is a woman. Remember your gender adjectives. And we really want to know where our “roto” is at. It seems as if you have “your roto,” but we do’t have ours. (Make it a , and it all changes.)


¿Las estupendo naciones? 


Add that accent to Aprendí and also on energía. And yeah, another poorly constructed translation and sentence.


Más, people, it’s always más.


And so on and so on.

Proving once again that if you are going to do a high-profile bilingual campaign that gets on Mashable, you better have the same standards for Spanish as you do for English. Also, it’s pretty obvious that the folks at Mashable need a good Spanish-language editor or two.

Pro tip: Develop the original copy and don’t translate, and if you do translate, get a copy editor who knows Spanish and also knows that syntax and meaning matter in Spanish as well.

The campaign’s Twitter responded with the following when our site’s publisher tweeted them:


Here's how this happens. American Family Insurance spends $$$$$$$$$ to hire a non-ethnic ad agency, who then hires non-ethnic vendors and gives them $$$$$$$ to do things like film big-budget SuperBowl ads, and millions of dolar$$$$$$$$$$ a minute:


Then it gives an actual ethnic vendor pennies. Centavos. Nothing to work with but the skin of their teeth. Both the PorEllosSiPodemos.com website and the original English version, BecauseOfThemWeCan.com, are registered to Eunique Jones, the African American photographer who shot the entire series and is carrying the weight of the world on her back. 

If I had to guess, I'd say she did the best she could with the pennies AFI gave her. Then they had the harebrained idea of offering her a few extra pennies if she lumped in Latinos with her existing African American market work, because no one at AFI knew or cared about the difference, and she in turn had to hustle and find someone, anyone, to translate. 

When you're an independent ethnic vendor getting pennies, instead of the big non-ethnic ad agency getting $$$$$$$$$$, you don't have the time, money or resources to hire the best. You grab someone who says they speak Spanish and be done with it.

So this is what AFI gets for not properly investing in the ethnic markets they're trying to target.