5 tips on how to translate English to Spanish
1st tip on how to translate English to Spanish: the form of address and the Spanish variant
We want to translate into Spanish, but to which variant of this language?
- European Spanish from Spain
- Spanish from a Latin American country
- Standard Spanish that encompasses all of Latin America
- International Spanish that includes Europe and America
This choice will already give us some answers, such as the form of address we’ll be using towards the reader:
- In the case of Spanish from Spain, if we are addressing listeners or readers in the second person, be it plural or singular, we must choose the addressing:
- Will we translate English “you” as conversational singular “tú” or plural “vosotros”?
- Or will we translate it as formal singular “usted” or plural “ustedes”?
- Instead, in Latin American Spanish, the formal use of “you” is more widespread, although the conversational form could also be used depending on the context.
2nd useful tip: terms that remain in English
We must keep in mind that English is currently considered the universal language, and Spanish, like most languages, borrows words that their speakers use daily.
For example, if we are talking about “copywriting,” we can keep the term, as it’s not necessary to translate it as “redacción publicitaria (advertising wording).”
3rd tip on how to translate English to Spanish: localize while avoiding clichés
➤ This element itself subdivides into two parts:
➀ The first one is the cultural adaptation of content:
As we know, translating isn’t just transferring words from one language into other languages, but it’s much more.
You have to be careful with translations that are too literal because although at first sight word-by-word translations seem to keep the message intact, they denaturalize the real meaning we want to transmit.
When releasing English original content translated into Spanish, we must ask ourselves whether the Spanish audience will knowledge the culturally-based details, entirely familiar for the English audience.
⤷ Although also the original location is critical here, as English is the native language of different cultures.
Be that as it may, culture today is global, and it’s a snap to adopt wrong clichés when localizing a translation.
→ For instance, let’s consider this situation:
- We are using an American tv show in an English article, as an example of what we’re describing.
- Eventually, we need to translate this content into Spanish, so we’re about to localize the tv example.
- Responsibly, it’s likely that we’ll start researching on similar Spanish shows.
- But perhaps, the exact Spanish audience to whom this content addresses, are followers of the American tv show and not the Spanish one, relying on its relevance or interest for this particular audience.
Therefore, rather than figuring out how the target audience is according to the country where they settle, let’s dig up more details, such as:
- educational level,
- if they have traveled,
- or if they have lived in foreign countries,
- among many other considerations.
→ Here’s another similar situation:
- An Australian English native writer aims at a native Spanish audience in Argentina that responds to their same traits in terms of age and cultural interests.
- We see that this way, they might share interests, listening to the same music, reading the same books, watching the same movies, and tv shows – like Netflix’s The Letdown シ. In definitive, they might have the same cultural references.
- Consequently, if this English native writer adapts the content to the Spanish audience, striving to identify supposed separate cultural references,
⤷ the well-meant adaptation produces a contradiction, as instead of bringing the content closer to the target audience, this counterproductive effort sets them apart!
➁ The second part of the location process is the adaptation of currencies, measures, and hours:
For example, if we used the UK pound currency in the original English content, we’d translate that figure into the money of the recipient country, be it euros, dollars, pesos, or any other. Thus undertaking a proper conversion.
➤ But notice that this conversion is not always needed or even advisable:
- Surely, in the case of measures, it’s likely that we’ll have to adapt them and convert from feet to meters, for example, so that the Spanish audience understands it effortlessly.
- Besides, in the case of the currencies, if, for instance, we aim to a native Spanish audience living in North America and US dollars appear in the original content, we’d maintain this and just translate the name “dollars” into the Spanish “dólares.”
4th useful tip: extension of the lines
In most cases, the resulting lines in Spanish will be longer than the original in English.
Therefore, if we are inserting the audio or the written text in a limited time or space format, we should adjust the structure, being not afraid of shortening sentences.
➤ When we translate, changes necessarily occur in the content, although it’s also true that we have to minimize them.
Still, we need to be courageous and keep in mind that what matters is transferring the idea and not how we express it,
⤷ unless we were working on an academic project about some kind of functional language analysis.
5th tip on how to translate English to Spanish: synonyms, passive voice, and possessive pronouns
Although the repeated use of the exact term in a text is not advisable in English, as it’s always better to enrich the content introducing different synonyms,
⤷ in Spanish, this requirement becomes even more essential.
Indeed, it’s uncommon to find a repeated word in the same line on a Spanish text, or even in consecutive sentences.
➤ Passive voice
The same happens with the passive voice, which although in English, it’s not advisable to abuse them, in Spanish, it’s also rare to see many passive verbs in a text.
This picture is usually clear evidence that the version is an English to Spanish translation;
⤷ hence, this Spanish version would sound like a translation, and not as an original, which is our goal as translators.
➤ Possessive pronouns
Generally, English uses more possessive pronouns than Spanish,
⤷ so when translating from English to Spanish, we must take this practice into account and, when possible, change the possessive pronouns with other elements.