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December 23, 2015
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At Executive Linguist Agency, we have done numerous written translations over the years with most of them being English-to-Spanish translation and vice versa.  It is the job of a skilled translator to recreate a document in the target language without distorting its meaning. Translating from one related language to another (from Spanish to Italian, for example) can minimize inaccurate translations, but nuances still exist.

Here are some of the typical language translation challenges that arise:

Sentence Structure

In English, a simple sentence is structured with the subject, verb, and object – in that particular order. For example, “Pablo translates documents” has a subject-verb-object structure. Other languages (like Japanese) have a completely different sentence structure and this has to be accounted for when doing translations.

spanish-translation-clichesIdioms, Slang, Clichés and Other Expressions

Every language has its own figures of speech that machine translators can never handle eloquently, which is why all of our translations are done by humans.

When preparing your English text, start with a clean original document.   Try to avoid using idiomatic expressions such as, ”hot potato,”  “it takes two to tango” or “to make a long story short” which mean nothing when literally translated and are a torture to put into plain Spanish, for example, using valuable space and diverting the potential reader away from your point.

Avoid slang at all costs.  “Zip your lip,”  “make a boo-boo,”  and “nice pad” are some examples that should only be used in informal speech and not when preparing a document .

Try not to use clichés as they do not often translate very well.  A few examples to be shunned are: “read between the lines,”  “wake up on the wrong side of the bed,”  “a gut wrenching pain” and  “laughter is the best medicine.”

“Last but not least,” “no brainer,”  “hit a roadblock,” “selling point” and “take it or leave it” are expressions that fall between slang and idiomatic expressions which are all problematic to render into Spanish or any other language.  Try not to use these or any ones like them when preparing a document for translation.

Similar Words with Multiple Meanings

Words can have multiple meanings; these words can sound alike or different. In English: “The dove gracefully dove for its seeds” is an example of dove being spelled the same, but being pronounced differently and having two completely different meanings. “Let’s buy the house by the lake” is an example of the words buy and by, which sound the same and have different meanings.

It is imperative that translators be fluent in both the original and target language in order to stay true to the meaning of the original document.

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