Ever found yourself in a linguistic dilemma, wondering how to communicate with a Hispanic audience without stepping on cultural toes? Been there, as a Latino myself. In these situations, you must start by knowing and understanding the terminology.
Let’s explore the three terms that are commonly used:
- Hispanic: used by those who identify as descendants of Spanish speakers, or from Spanish-speaking countries. That includes Spain, but not Brazil.
- Latino/a: it is a designation based more on geography, it refers to those who originate from or descend from Latin American countries. Which excludes Spain but includes Brazil.
- Latinx: Technically, it means the same as Latino/Latina, but it is a gender-neutral usage.
Although these words may sound the same, they are not equivalent and using them correctly can be a great hit for your communications.
What term is best to use?
The word “Latino/a” is often used to talk specifically about cultural heritage, especially in media and academic circles.
The word “Hispanic” is used more often when the focus is language and literature.
Meanwhile, the word “Latinx” will be more useful in contexts where you want to put aside the gender distinction and opt for a neutral approach.
But many Latinos actually prefer to be called by words that directly refer to their origin (“This is my Brazilian friend, Tomás”; “Yesterday, I talked with my Chilean coworker about business”).
Since Latin America is so large and extensive, and covers so many countries, it is normal for each country to feel proud to represent its flag. Reducing so much diversity to a couple of words may be appropriate when seeking to reach a large audience, but it is better to pay attention to detail when we are talking about individuals.
How to Use These Words in a Professional Setting?
In a professional setting, the right choice of words can demonstrate your cultural awareness but it doesn’t have to be hard. Here’s an easy guide:
- In Situations Like Job Interviews: It’s not always necessary to directly ask someone which term they prefer. Instead, listen actively. If they refer to their cultural identity, follow their lead. For instance, if they say, “As a Latina in tech…,” you should feel comfortable using ‘Latina’ in that conversation. This approach respects the natural flow of conversation, avoiding any awkwardness.
- If Someone Expresses a Preference: If during a conversation, they express a preference for a particular term, take note and use it. For example, if a colleague says, “I identify as Latinx,” use ‘Latinx’ when referring to their cultural background in future discussions. This shows that you’re attentive and respectful of their self-identification.
- When In Doubt, Stay General: In cases where cultural identity isn’t mentioned, it’s safe to stay general. Focus on the individual or the professional topic at hand without trying to label their heritage. This ensures you remain professional and focused on the individual, not just their background.
- Plan Ahead If You Want: For more formal settings or important meetings, you might still consider a pre-meeting questionnaire (like using Google Forms) to understand preferences. But keep it optional and part of broader meeting prep. This can be a proactive step, but it’s important to keep it low-pressure and respectful of their privacy.
Many times the correct choice of words works as something intuitive, rather than a technical repertoire. It is important to maintain active listening and show genuine interest in your interlocutor to achieve valuable connections.
Novle believes in starting every interaction with a conversation. To authentically engage with diverse communities, it’s not just about knowledge but understanding deeply to integrate your brand meaningfully.
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