Updated from a previously published post.
The growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S. (around 18% of the population in 2023) has led to increased demand for audio content targeted to that demographic. All genres of voiceover work, from commercials and explainer videos to e-learning, corporate narration, promos and more, are incorporating Spanish and bilingual content. And the increased demand has brought an expansion of VO talent offering their services in Spanish, from fluent native speakers to those who learned a little Spanish in high school.
I think anyone seriously involved in Spanish or English-Spanish bilingual voiceover work would agree that it’s not a good idea to sell yourself as a Spanish-speaking talent if you are not able to speak the language fluently, expressively and with an impeccable accent. In this regard, there are obvious advantages to hiring talent born and educated in a Spanish-speaking country.
But it’s not an absolute necessity. There are U.S.-born Spanish speakers who are completely bilingual – native speakers who can speak both English and Spanish and switch effortlessly between the two languages.
Full Bilingualism = Value Added
In my career as an English/Spanish bilingual voice actor, my standards are exactly the same for both languages: perfect, native pronunciation and expression. Surprisingly, I’ve found that sometimes being a native English speaker is just as important as being a native Spanish speaker. Being fully bilingual has advantages:
- It’s important to recognize errors in translation and be able to make suggestions to correct them. Sometimes English expressions are translated directly into Spanish; if you are familiar with the colloquial expressions in English, it may be easier to find the best Spanish equivalent.
- Some translation problems are due to grammatical errors or ambiguities in the source text. If you have a complete command of written English, you can more easily identify and correct these errors.
- In overdubs, errors in translation may be due to the translator misunderstanding spoken English words because of the speaker’s accent or dialect. As a native English speaker, I am able to understand many different accents (although I admit I still watch “Masterpiece Theatre” with the subtitles on!)
- For recordings of a specified duration, mastery of both languages makes it easier to adapt translations to fit in in a given time without sacrificing the meaning of the source copy.
- It’s an extra perk for the client to be able to use the same voice talent in English and Spanish and have both languages sound natural and conversational.
Quality is What Matters
Given the growing importance of the Spanish language in the United States, and just as a matter of principle, the standards for Spanish and bilingual voiceover should always be as high as they are for English. It is as important for creators of content in Spanish, as it is for English-language creators, to find speakers who have a perfect command of the language, whether they are “native” or ”imported” speakers. There are two sides to “bilingual”. In some cases, mastery of English may be just as important as mastery of Spanish.