Cultural Translations Solutions



Case 1: "Ask them to spell out their last names"

A Chicago-based sales trainer visits one of his company's offices in Latin America to train a new team of sales persons. He instructs the sales staff to demonstrate personal interest in their clients by asking  them to spell out their names.

The sales manager left a bad impression, the sales persons mocked him and refused to follow his instructions.

CULTURAL TRANSLATIONS would have advised that sales managers with oversight over Latin American offices be fluent in Spanish and be informed about the region's culture. At the very least the sales manager should have sought the advise of local employees who would have explained to him that Spanish is a phonetic language in which letters always sound in a specific way. Asking a Latin American person to spell his/her last name is foolish.

All training materials and practices should have been culturally translated to suit local realities. 



Case 2: "Yes, I will attend the event"

A pastor arrives to a town in Texas with a predominately Latino population. He calls a large number of people to invite them to a church event. Most replied yes to the invitation.

On Sunday just a handful of guests showed up.

CULTURAL TRANSLATIONS would have advised the pastor about religion and culture among Latin Americans and Latinos. For one thing, while many of them are Protestant, some retain Catholic practices such as not eating meat on Fridays. 

CULTURAL TRANSLATIONS would have explained that many Latinos / Hispanics find it difficult to say "no" and told the pastor that they would attend his event out of respect. 



Case 3: "May I see your receipt señor?"

A large US bulk retailer opens new stores in a Latin American country. It applies the same security practices it uses in the US stores, including checking out purchase receipts to see if they match the merchandise. 

The stores' launching ends up as a costly public relations crisis.  

CULTURAL TRANSLATIONS would have recommend a revision of the US mainland practice of checking receipts against purchased merchandise. 

Latin American and Latino cultures exhibit a strong sense of Mediterranean-derived honor. Questioning someone's honesty is a form of disrespect. 



Case 4: "They scored lower on the honesty test"

Researchers at a major mid-western university develop a survey for a study on  honesty and dishonesty among students. When they broke down the results, they concluded that Latinos scored lower than other groups.

Because they failed to recognize that different cultures define honesty in  different ways, their results were flawed and potentially supported a negative stereotype.

CULTURAL TRANSLATIONS would have analyzed the project's survey to make sure that it was not biased nor included culturally-insensitive questions. 

Because honesty is defined differently in different cultures, it would have advised against using questions such as: "If you saw a classmate cheating on an exam, would you report him/her?" 



Case 5: "Books can be judged by their cover"

A publishing house commissions artistic covers for a new Encyclopedia of Cuba. The covers were beautiful. The press dismissed the editors' suggestions to replace some images. 

The  encyclopedia sold very well in the broader market but sales among  Cubans and Cuban-Americans in South Florida were disappointingly low.  Some potential buyers were so turned off by the covers that they refused  to even peek inside. 

CULTURAL TRANSLATIONS would have provided advise on the encyclopedia's covers design, including pointing out that both covers included stereotypical images of Cubans. One volume's cover has a baseball player; the other volume portrays three black childlike rumba dancers.

These images were not in harmony with the encyclopedia's contents which covered Cuban contributions to all fields, from literature to architecture and from medicine to sports. 



Case 6: "You say Latino; I say Hispanic"

A speaker travels the country addressing audiences that include Latinos / Hispanics. 

At a Boston university, the speaker is scolded for using the term "Hispanic," and is told to use "Latino" or "LatinX" instead. Later that month, she delivers a PowerPoint presentation at a Philadelphia library, this time using the term "Latino." Someone recommends using "people of  color" because it is a more unifying term. 

The next stop is Miami, where  the speaker uses the terms "Latino" and "people of color" interchangeably. At the end of the presentation, an audience member scolds the speaker for using the term "people of color" which he deemed  offensive. 

CULTURAL TRANSLATIONS would have explained to this individual the cultural diversity within Latin American societies and among Latinos in the US.

Differences include diverse identities and ethnic label preferences, which vary from group to group and place to place. 

Case 7



Case 7: "We hire Ivy Leaguers"

A major not for profit organization fails to hire, promote, and retain Hispanic / Latino employees. 

The  few Hispanics / Latinos that work there are frustrated by their low numbers and lower salaries; many become demoralized and seek employment  elsewhere. The organization, for its part, does not benefit from the knowledge, skills, and insights of Latino / Hispanic employees.

CULTURAL TRANSLATIONS would have assessed the racial-ethnic composition of the organization's workforce and surveyed its Latino employees.

It would have recognized structural problems such as failure to advertise positions in Spanish-language trade publications and webpages and would have advised to expand recruitment efforts beyond managers form a particular Ivy League MBA program.

It would have also recommended strategies for workforce diversification and to retain Latino workers by implementing mentorships and other programs.