How To Get Better At Spanish/English Translation

How To Get Better At Spanish/English Translation

Do you speak Spanish? If so, you’re likely to have no problems conversing with 427 million other Spanish speakers in the world, be it in the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific or even Africa!

What’s more interesting is that since Spanish is the 3rd most common language used on the Internet, the need for Spanish/English translation is in high demand. In fact, Latin America has a growing gaming industry that earned $4.1 billion in total revenue!

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Today, we’re going to share our easiest Spanish translation tips that’ll help you get the most accurate Spanish translations. It doesn’t matter if you’re a big-time gamer, a professional translator or someone just interested in learning a new language, with these tips, you’ll be able to master the Spanish language in no time!

Spanish Translation Tips For Beginners

Translating one language to another is challenging because:

  • There is no standard for Spanish. There are many different dialects of Spanish that have their own nuances, rules, and pronunciations
  • Translating Spanish into English (and vice versa) is challenging because sometimes the context doesn’t always line up or make sense
  • Spanish is very similar to Italian and Portuguese, both of which are romance languages, unlike English which has Anglo-Saxon roots

With these things in mind, let’s go over common problems people face with Spanish/English translation and how to prepare for them.

1. Spanish Dialects

Since there are numerous dialects within the Spanish language, it’s important that you are aware of where your audience is located, and the dialect spoken there.

For example, you wouldn’t translate a document in Murcian Spanish if your audience is located on the Canary Islands because your audience could get confused and even offended that you don’t know their language well.

2. There’s A Lot To Spanish

When you go to the book store and pick up a translation dictionary or a Spanish copy of your favorite book, you may have noticed that a Spanish book is going to have more pages than an English book.

Why? Because there is research that shows a Spanish translation is going to have about 30% more words than the original English text.

If you’re translating a document that needs to be within so many words or fit a certain length (such as a meta description for a blog post, or you need to translate a tweet, you need to know how to shorten the message without losing the meaning of that message.

3. Spanish And English Grammar Is Very Different

In English class, we are taught to follow a specific sentence structure: Subject – Verb – Object (Katie threw the flowers.). With Spanish, you have more wiggle room in terms of sentence structure.

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Let’s say you want to emphasize that Katie threw the flowers and not Elle, the literal Spanish syntax would be, “threw the flowers Katie,” or “Tiró las flores Katie.”

It isn’t just syntax that’s different. Spanish is a two-gender language. This means that nouns are assigned a male or female identification. French is another language that follows this principle.

Verbs also are tricky because there are six spellings (yes, six!) for each verb tense, while English verbs are changed by adding a suffix for the different tenses.

Adjectives in Spanish always comes after the noun, whereas in English, the adjective goes before. Also, Spanish adjectives can be altered by the gender and the number of the noun, whereas English adjectives never change.

4. Similar Words = Different Meanings

Although Spanish and English have very different origins, there are quite a few words that look very similar, but the actual meaning of the word may be different for each language. This happens because all Romance languages draw from Latin, which English is also influenced by.

An example of this is “pie.” In English, it’s a delicious baked treat; yet in Spanish, it means foot. Another example is “embarazada.” It looks like it would mean embarrassed in English, but it really means pregnant!

5. Understand That Not Everything Will Translate

There are some words and phrases in Spanish that simply will not translate to English. An example of this is “llamativo.” In Spanish, the term comes from the verb “llamar,” which is sometimes translated as to call – more specifically, it means to call attention to oneself.

When you’re working with Spanish/English translation, you need to know other words that can best describe what you want. “Llamativas” doesn’t necessarily work for some descriptions, but it could be perfect for others.

6. Translate The Message, Not Word For Word

Unless you are asked to provide the most accurate Spanish translation for something, we recommend focusing more on translating the message than translating the words. We recommend this because sometimes doing literal translations will cause the message to lose its impact and meaning because context and nuance of said meaning.

Final Thoughts

When you’re tasked with translating one language to another, it’s important that you take the time and go over the source material. Make sure you feel comfortable with the material before you can begin translating.

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Also, you’ll want to be mindful of the audience that you are translating for. Each Spanish dialect is unique and have their own set of idioms. Trust us, you won’t want to make the mistake of using a popular idiom from Puerto Rico in a technical document for someone in Northern Spain – people may not understand the sentiment and start looking at you oddly.

To close out our collection of Spanish translation tips, we want to remind you that it is important to proofread your work. If you come across a word that you don’t know the meaning of, look it up. While you may have liberty to substitute some words that don’t have an English translation, you must make sure the translation makes sense.

In the comments below, tell us what you find to be the hardest part of Spanish/English translation work. We’d love to hear from you!


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