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Spanish & English Translation

Translation Problems between Spanish and English

Kri Howland Hawaii Pacific University August 9, 2012

Spanish & English Translation Spanish and English Translation Problems

Spanish is known as the most common second language in the United States and because of this, most Americans have experienced the language one time or another whether through TV, radio, personal interaction, school, or even street signs in certain states. The similarities between the two languages in grammar, cognates, and availability of learning materials may give some people the mistaken idea that translating (which, for the purposes of this paper, includes oral/aural interpretation) Spanish to English and vice versa is simple. In the subsequent paragraphs, the difficulties and common errors of Spanish and English translation and how this applies to the classroom will be addressed. Since the focus of this paper is centered on Spanish and English translation in the United States, a discussion of Chicano Spanish and how it factors into translation will also be given. An example of word for word translation from Spanish to English is given in Swan & Swans (2001) Learner English as follows: (1) Sentado en el Sat suelose calzaba

on the floor himself he was shoeing [=putting on] de suela clavateada

las speras botas de racionamiento

the rough boots of rationing [=army boots] of sole studded y puntera de metal: ellos se las

and toecap of metal: they [for] themselves them [=the boots] miraban con envidia.

they were looking [at] with envy.

Spanish & English Translation As this example implies, Spanish- English literal translation can often produce confusing, ungrammatical results. Dictionaries and language guides therefore try to domesticate the translation as much as possible while trying to maintain the tone and implication, but such perfect translation is often impossible to achieve and can have consequences in a language learning classroom. An interesting article regarding the discrepancies between BBC News (English) and BBC Mundos (Spanish) collocations highlights the mistranslations and lack of adequate materials for translators to use to represent these distinctions correctly. The authors provide three examples of instances where this occurred that will now be summarized. In the first example, the collocation celebrated poet became celebrado poeta. This is

noteworthy because the latter is usually more accepted as famoso or clebre to get across the idea that the poet is of a particularly well-known caliber. The authors remark that the translator in this case sought a more literal translation for the article, as many do. The second example provided reviews domestic history and its translation of historia local. The authors bring up the term partial cognate, which is defined by their standards as when two words share some meaning across the languages but also have additional meanings in one language (Gegorio & Molina, 2011, pg. 146). It is argued that because of the context of the article and how local implies less of a country-wide history and more of a specific area history; nacional would have gotten the point across better in this case and is suggested. The final example used to compare BBC News and BBC Mundos translated articles refers to the suffix -based, which conveys the semantic nuance of location +based. The Spanish translation given is basado en, as in, Se trat virtualmente de genocidio, dice el

Spanish & English Translation historiador britnico basado en Madrid Ian Gibson (2011, pg. 147). Native English speakers are familiar with the term Chicago-based case study or army-based, but there is no such correlation by using the words basado en. The authors again suggest a different translation, in this case con sede en Madrid in order to get across the typical meaning one would expect with -based. Through all of these examples, a suggested solution for the deficiency translators experience when it comes to multi-word combinations in Spanish and English translation could be as simple as developing bilingual word-combination dictionaries to use as a reference, or finding one already in existence. (Gregorio & Molina, 2011).

There are many other aspects of the two languages that require a bit more ingenuity from the translators when dealing with them. For example, a Spanish Grammar guidebook used to help native English-speaking travelers pick up the nuances of Spanish grammar explains the ambiguity one might experience when phrasing a sentence with the reflexive pronoun se in Spanish. The sentence provided to explain such ambiguity is: Se da un regalo. The meaning is unclear because it could mean He/she is being given a present or He/she is giving a present to him/her self (Kendris, 2001). When translating, it is important to avoid vagueness unless its intended in both languages. In a classroom setting, this could be difficult to accomplish because not only does the teacher have to move the lesson along in a timely fashion (therefore unlikely to have the time to explain every instance of translation vagueness) but he/she also has to factor in what the students and class goals are and they might not necessarily compliment focusing on explanations of potential mishaps such as they above example.

Spanish & English Translation Another potential translation problem mentioned in the pocket book guide is the term para con which means to or toward with respect to a persons feeling about others. The example given in the book is as follows: Nuestra profesora de espaol es muy amable para con nosotros. The translation given in the book is: Our Spanish teacher is very kind to us. The potential difficulty here is that Spanish language learners generally learn the word para to mean for and con to mean with. Naturally, when seeing the two words together the

Spanish language learner is likely to think of the pair as separate, or as for with which does not occur in English. It is therefore the teachers job to get the students, as Gregorio & Molina mentioned previously, to introduce students to the idea of multi-word combinations that take on a whole different meaning than their individual words typically indicate. (Kendris, 2001). A very common complexity of Spanish and English translation is the amount of false cognates that arise. Cognates are words that look similar between the two languages and have very similar meanings. False cognates are words that look very similar to a word in the other language, often tricking the language learner into believing it must mean something similar as well when that is not always the case. False cognates can provide a challenge when translating within ones own mind because of this assumption. A few examples of false cognates between Spanish and English, in particular, are: lectura (reading matter), xito (success), propio (own), libreria (bookshop) and conductor-a (driver) (Swan & Swan, 2001).

Spanish & English Translation As mentioned in the introduction, Spanish is so widely spread throughout the world that it is impossible to find one specific dictionary that contains all of the colloquial, region-specific

terms and phrases that the typical Spanish learner might hear in the real world but not inside of a classroom. One such version of Spanish popular in the United States with Mexican-Americans is called Chicano Spanish. Roberto Galvn published a Chicano Spanish- English dictionary that draws attention to the often slang terms one may hear when listening to Chicano Spanish. For comparison purposes, the University of Chicago Spanish Dictionary will be used as a reference for standard Spanish and that which students are most likely to find if they search. In the Chicano Spanish- English dictionary, one of the entries lists the word cascarear as meaning to use ones last ounce of strength in order to accomplish something. If the average Spanish language learner heard this word off of the street and attempted to look it up in a standard Spanish dictionary, the closest they would find is cascar which means to crack; to slap around. Likewise, the word manopla which, in standard Spanish means mitten is actually slang for hand in Chicano Spanish, which could prove very confusing out of context for the language learner. Lima, which typically means lime or lemon, can be used to mean shirt (Pharies, 2002). A few words that do not appear at all in the standard Spanish dictionary are: (2) Luquis meaning crazy person denunciante meaning cruel and ruthless policeman jambo meaning thief

Spanish & English Translation chavo meaning young person or sweetheart escobn meaning guitar pachocha meaning money corbata de gato meaning bow tie chora meaning sweetheart or fiance.

The idea that one specific brand of Spanish could fill an entire dictionary with words and idioms not found in standard English-Spanish dictionaries hints at the magnitude of difficulty a translator faces when approached with non-standard words. Much of what transpires must be derived from context. (Galvn, 1995). From personal experience in Spanish, the phrase prncipe azul caused a bit of confusion. The literal translation of this idiom is blue prince and young girls who spoke of their crushes often used the expression. The meaning is similar to the English phrase prince charming but also has a bit to do with the idea of blue bloods, which is what people of higher class or royalty are known as because their blood is never seen; this is either because of a lack of physical labor that might result in cuts and cruises or the idea of metaphorically keeping blood off of their hands in politics. Phrases like this, while common, are similarly difficult for language teachers as Chicano Spanish or any other colloquialisms that might offer a bit more understanding in day to day Spanish conversation. This is particularly true if the goal of the student is entirely communicative-focused. In conclusion, I believe that having even a small amount of background knowledge in the potential problems of translation between ones native language and ones target language is

Spanish & English Translation monumental in determining how experience in the learning process is conducted, whether positively or negatively. As this paper has demonstrated, there are many underlying issues when going from Spanish to English and vice versa and those that are aware of these difficulties and actively attempt to reduce the amount of error as much as possible will be far more successful. Spanish has a very high number of speakers inside the United States, and because of this language material and dictionaries between the two languages are not hard to find (unlike some minority languages in Asia or the Pacific). Teachers and students must therefore utilize these materials correctly. Being aware of false cognates between the two languages, understanding the cohesiveness of multi-word combinations in each language, learning common idioms, recognizing that there are many dialects and region-specific ways to use Spanish, and avoiding ambiguity within text and speech are all suggested ways to reach that level of success when translating. All in all, Spanish and English are two different languages with different origins and different commonalities and it is the translators job, whether that translator is a professional, a language student, or a friend that happens to speak both languages, to navigate through the noncomplimentary aspects and attempt to realize the original intent and convey it as such.

Spanish & English Translation References Coe, N. (2001). Speakers of Spanish and Catalan. In M. Swan, & B. Smith, Learner English. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 93-115. Galvn, R. A. (1995). The Dictionary of Chicano Spanish. (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: National Textbook Company. Gregorio, E., & Molina, S. (2011). Collocations and the translation of news: An english-spanish electronic dictionary of multi-word combinations as a translation tool. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, 19(2), 135-152. Retrieved from

http://ezproxy.hpu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/896181498?accoun tid=2514 Kendris, C. (2001). Spanish Grammar. (2nd ed.). Hauppaugue, NY: Barron's Educational Series, Inc. Pharies, D. (2002). The University of Chicago Spanish Dictionary. (5th ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago.