Top 10 Survival Strategies for Spanish Applications

Top 10 Survival Strategies for Spanish Applications:


  1. Make Spanish as important as any other language.
  2. Apply Spanish Marketing 101.
    Understanding your market is critical; evaluate current and potential usage.
  3. Follow user-centric design methodologies.
    Apply VUI design best practices based on usage-case scenario analysis (i.e. scenarios for why people call) combined with observation of actual call-center customer interactions. Employ usability techniques, early prototype testing and dialog design principles to obtain conversational and natural sounding prompts. No textbook language please!
  4. Seek professional advice on language + culture + branding = localization.
    Translations aren’t enough. As seen in Figure 4, words can have multiple meanings and translations. Synonyms and jargon can be difficult to translate or may need to be left in English if U.S.-Spanish callers use them in their daily speech (e.g., “ATM”).
  5. Remember there’s no such thing as “neutral Spanish”.
    The “persona” of the system’s voice should reflect the branding and identify with the Spanish-speaking callers. Spanish speakers have perceptions of certain personality traits that are different from English speakers, so a translated English persona won’t fit this audience. Select a voice talent who matches your branding, and in most cases avoid strong regional accents when recording prompts.
  6. Anticipate recognition, tuning and text-to-speech challenges early.
    Recognition performance and call completion rates may not be as high in Spanish applications as they are for English systems. Special consideration is needed to account for engines and tools that often aren’t as robust as their English counterparts. Callers will use a mix of both languages.
  7. Adapt the transcription process.
    Transcription conventions may need to be modified for multilingual utterances. This includes possibly indicating which words are in English and providing guidelines on how to determine if English words should be treated as side-speech or as in-domain grammar options. Transcribers need familiarity with U.S.-Spanish to make these judgments.
  8. Eliminate duplicate documentation.
    Avoid keeping separate specifications for each language. Minimize development and maintenance nightmares by keeping English and Spanish synchronized and in a single document.
  9. Context, context, context.
    Localize the entire dialog rather than editing the English into individual prompts and then translating them out of context. Make sure the Spanish prompts flow together coherently.
  10. Identify divergence during development.
    Call flows and code-base may need to diverge based on complex grammars, prompts that need to be reordered for linguistic or cultural reasons or prompt concatenation strategies generated by language-specific number and gender rules (e.g. “una pluma” – ‘one pen’ vs. “un lápiz” – ‘one pencil’).
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