Gains in Translation: What Your Language Choices Say to US Hispanics

¡Hola, anunciantes! Last year, US Hispanics’ buying power reached $1.3 trillion.1 How can marketers connect with this valuable audience? By speaking their preferred language.

To understand US Hispanics’ language preferences and how these shape their buying decisions, Facebook IQ commissioned Latinum Network to survey more than 500 people, conduct in-depth interviews in Spanish with five and observe how 54 navigated a mobile app. All participants self-identified as US Hispanic and were classified as Spanish Dominant,* Bilingual ** or English Dominant *** based on questions about language proficiency, cultural openness and cultural engagement.

Facebook IQ discovered that on average, 80% of US Hispanics surveyed don’t feel they need to stop speaking Spanish to be part of American culture, and seeing ads in Spanish versus English significantly increases their interest in purchasing products.


Spanish is music to US Hispanics’ ears
On average, US Hispanics surveyed feel Spanish is more “beautiful” and “emotional” than English, and 86% believe that speaking Spanish is a way to stay connected to their culture. Spanish Dominant and Bilingual US Hispanics also tend to navigate the online world in Spanish.



Our survey showed that US Hispanics’ language preference also extends to ads. 79% of Spanish Dominant, 82% of Bilingual and 60% of English Dominant research participants surveyed think brands should advertise in both Spanish and English.

What’s more, on average US Hispanics surveyed who saw static ads for products in Spanish were 1.40x more likely to agree that they wanted to buy the products than those who saw the same ads in English.

Spanish Dominant shoppers seek Spanish to feel more confident

To avoid costly mistakes, Spanish Dominant shoppers seek guidance in Spanish when making decisions ranging from buying groceries to setting up a bank account. In the last year, 35% of Spanish Dominant survey respondents asked for information in Spanish when shopping to ensure they didn’t miss any details.


Spanish Dominant and Bilingual consumers gain confidence when they see instructions in Spanish

Understanding a product’s purpose and benefits is one of the first steps toward making a purchase. Facebook IQ was eager to explore in real time how language affects US Hispanics’ comprehension confidence. We asked 54 Spanish Dominant and Bilingual research participants to use a mobile app tutorial to complete a complex task: creating an origami swan. The research participants received instructions in Spanish or English at random, and all had the option to switch to the language they preferred.



58% of the Spanish Dominant and 29% of the Bilingual research participants who received instructions in English made the effort to switch to Spanish. No participants who received the instructions in Spanish elected to change the language setting to English. The study also revealed that participants who read instructions in Spanish felt more confident about their origami skills compared to participants who read instructions in English.

It’s worth noting that though the app included images and GIFs, 56% of Spanish Dominant participants and 45% of Bilingual participants said it would be better with video.


Content must reflect and respect culture
Offering content in Spanish helps brands build strong relationships with US Hispanics. Our survey showed that when brands advertise in Spanish, US Hispanics—especially those who are Spanish Dominant or Bilingual—associate them with positive attributes.


But it’s not enough for brands to just speak Spanish—many US Hispanics also want them to speak it with respect and accuracy. On average, 62% of US Hispanics surveyed agree that using “Spanglish” is a way to represent the two cultures, and the majority agree it is an informal, more relaxed way of communicating. That said, nearly half prefer not to mix English and Spanish, and some of the people we interviewed explained that they find it disrespectful.


Translation is another tricky area. The US Hispanics we interviewed told us they often see content translated from English to Spanish too literally or too loosely. When this happens, they often seek in-person service and written materials in English to get more clarity.

US Hispanics also want marketing content to be culturally relevant. One way to do this is to include culturally specific elements in brand videos. To make brand videos culturally relevant, on average the top three elements US Hispanics recommend that marketers include are Spanish-speaking actors (62%), family gatherings (58%) and humor (57%).


What it means for marketers
Our research suggests that in addition to sharing content in Spanish, marketers looking to earn US Hispanics’ business should consider the following strategies.

  • Achieve fluency. Invest in high-quality translations, include culturally recognizable elements in your content and provide product information in both Spanish and English. Next, marketers can reach people based on their language preferences using Facebook’s language-based targeting segments.
  • Provide a safety net. US Hispanics often avoid unfamiliar products for fear of making a mistake. Encourage them to experiment with your products by offering reassuring return policies and trial periods, and provide customer service in Spanish.
  • Prioritize video. Video allows you to quickly communicate complex information to a broad audience. When creating video for a sound-off mobile environment, be sure to include captions in Spanish.



* Spanish Dominant research participants answered questions about language proficiency, cultural openness and cultural engagement in a way that indicated they feel predominantly connected to the Hispanic element of US culture.

** Bilingual US Hispanic research participants answered questions about language proficiency, cultural openness and cultural engagement that indicated they feel equally connected to both the non-Hispanic and Hispanic elements of US culture.

*** English Dominant research participants answered questions about language proficiency, cultural openness and cultural engagement in a way that indicated they feel predominantly connected to the non-Hispanic element of US culture.


1 “Asians, Hispanics Driving US Economy Forward, According to UGA Study” by Selig Center for Economic Growth, predicted in Sep 2015 and confirmed Aug 2016.
Source unless otherwise specified: “Understanding the Impact of Language on Hispanic Consumers” by Latinum Network, Jul 2016. Data is based on a survey of 519 people who self-identified as US Hispanic, in-depth interviews with five people who self-identified as US Hispanic and mobile app activity research involving 54 participants who self-identified as US Hispanic. All research participants were ages 18+. Language dominance was based on questions about language proficiency, cultural openness and cultural engagement.