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¡Eres tú!Remember addressing others as thee and thou? Of course you don’t because its usage disappeared before anyone living today was born. But in other languages this change from the formal to the informal mode of address is happening right now!

Consider Spanish in Mexico (other Latin American countries follow different rules) for example, where the change from the use of both modalities “” or “usted” to the single “tú” signifies a rather profound cultural shift.

Up until about 5 years ago, usage rules in Mexico were clear and followed slavishly. The informal tú was allowed only for intimate relationships, children, or those below the speaker on the social or economic scale. The formal usted was reserved for those whom the speaker considered of equal, or higher, social status. Only those addressed by the informal tú were to be called by their first name. Adherence to the rules began changing when advertising started to use the familiar to address end users. Prior to this, it would have been considered insulting. As the informal tú to address everyone became more the norm in advertising, it began to take over in several other areas of everyday life.

Whenever custom is in flux, there are dangers in the choices one makes in their communications. In translation, deciding whether to use the formal or the informal address has become a hot topic!

Context may dictate the choice, as legal text and banking materials retain the formal structure and it is recommended the address in these materials be the formal “usted.”

When the context is marketing, we recommend honing in on the end user: if the target audience is young and/or modern in their habits, the natural mode of address is informal, as they strive for informality in the English materials. If the materials are intended for an older or more traditional audience, then the formal is in order, out of respect for the now old-fashioned formal style, until the current younger generation has moved into their spot and then the “usted” form in Spanish will be as obsolete as thee and thou in English.

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