According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey, Spanish is the primary language of the home for over 38 million U.S. residents–a figure about double the number of the 1990 survey. Spanish is easily the second-most spoken language in the United States after English, and there are more Spanish speakers in the U.S. than in any other country except Mexico.
Given the place of Spanish in the U.S., its continuing growth, and its worldwide language community of 400 million native speakers and 500 million total speakers, it is not surprising that Spanish voice talent is in high demand. Below, we will look at some of the main job opportunities that demand Spanish voice talent, and then we will examine several qualities and skills that producers are looking for in Spanish voice-overs.
In-Demand Spanish Voice Talent Jobs
In both the entertainment and advertising industries, there is a growing demand to supply the 12% of U.S. households where Spanish is spoken with regular Spanish-language programming. As there are many dialects of Spanish and as about half of U.S. Spanish-speakers speak English very well, there is much diversity and complexity involved in meeting this challenge.
Some of the most important in-demand Spanish voice jobs, which are communicated through various media, including t.v., radio, Internet, and in-person, are as follows:
1. Dubbing English to Spanish
One major boom, across every dialect of Spanish, is in “dubbing” English T.V. shows, movies, training videos, e-learning tools, and even mobile apps into Spanish. The dialogue is systematically replaced, and there is often a desire for “localization” using specific dialects, cultural comments, and genre-specific devices.
2. Doing Spanish Commercials
Companies seeking to market their products on Spanish television and radio stations are in constant need of Spanish voice talent to effectively communicate with their audience. When you consider that such ads are running on a 24/7 basis and must be frequently replaced with new material, it is easy to see why the demand is high.
3. Narrating Spanish Productions
Narration parts in T.V. shows, novellas, documentaries, and movies are crucial to the success of these productions. Finding a talented Spanish narrator who matches the style and mood you wish to project is not always easy, but it can greatly enhance the entertainment and educational value of your productions.
4. Original Broadcasting in Spanish
There is great value in making original broadcasts in Spanish rather than always translating from English. T.V. show hosts, radio DJs, live sports announcers, news reporters, and more are among the many jobs available.
5. Voice-Acting Spanish Characters
Voice-acting for Spanish cartoons and animated films is another major area of demand. Many who enter this type of career have not only a natural voice talent but also have developed their voice through training and education at acting schools or while pursuing a dramatic arts or communications degree.
In-Demand Spanish Voice Talent Skills
For any and all of the above-listed jobs, studios are looking for specific skills that set voice artists apart and that meet the demands of the tasks to be performed. Some of the most important skills that are in demand and increase your chances of a successful Spanish voice-over include:
1. Fluency in Native Spanish
It is essential that your Spanish voice talent be fully fluent, but even when someone masters Spanish as a second language, native speakers will still almost always have the advantage. Words, phrases, and diction will come more naturally to them, allowing them to focus more on the message and the tone.
2. Perfect Pronunciation
The Spanish trilled “r” and “ñ” are phonemes not found in English, which is why it is difficult for non-native speakers to pronounce perfectly. Other sounds also, even if more subtly, vary from their English equivalents. Correct diction and solid enunciation are crucial, and word-stress, emphasis, and variation must also be mastered to create a truly “authentic” Spanish voice-over.
3. Good Voice Control
The ability to control one’s voice in order to deliver the exact sound desired in regard to tone, pitch, rate, style, and other factors is only acquired after years of practice. This is one of the main elements that sets professionals apart from amateur performers.
4. Neutral Spanish Accent
There are many dialects of Spanish, but one of the most highly marketable varieties of Spanish voice is simply a “neutral Spanish accent.” This means that, while the sound is authentic Spanish, it does not mark itself much toward dialectical extremities and thus works well across a wide and diverse audience.
Neutral accent also makes it practical for studios to hire a single artist to handle multiple scripts and/or characters. While U.S. Spanish used to vary more by region–Mexican accents dominating California, Puerto Rican New York City, and Cuban much of Miami–this is less so today. The huge influx of Spanish-speakers from all across Latin America in recent years has led to greater uniformity in U.S. Spanish, which further increases the value of a neutral accent. Finally, those from Colombia have an advantage on neutral accent since their native dialect is already very close to the “neutral” or “general” accent.
5. Specific Spanish Dialects
There are also many situation wherein the script calls for different characters to exhibit a particular Spanish dialect, and when targeting a particular community, using the local dialect is often more effective. Accent, rhythm, word choices, and special idioms will all factor into this adaptation. The Spanish voice artist who can supply Castilian, Latin American, Puerto Rican, Mexican, or Argentinian Spanish instead of only neutral accent will have an advantage in many situations.
6. Translation Abilities
While voice artists need not be translators, in many cases it is very helpful if they are. Many productions are needed in both English and Spanish, and those who are fluent in both and able to move freely and naturally between the two languages are a major asset to studios. Spanish is usually about 25% longer than the corresponding English, which will turn a 60-second commercial into a 75-second one. To avoid this, the translation may have to condense things and/or be spoken at faster rate.
There are many careers available for skilled Spanish voice talent, but there is also much competition. Those who deliver such Spanish voice skills as noted above are in a good position to compete for the best Spanish voice jobs.