With over 500,000 Spanish speakers across the globe, this represents a huge audience for businesses to tap into. Translating elements of your website, blog or other materials into Spanish, therefore, is a lucrative business. Spanish translation doesn’t have to be hard and with a few fundamentals mastered you can tap into a new market. These are key points for new Spanish translators to consider.
Think About Dialect
Spanish is one of the most spoken languages across the world, so you won’t be surprised to discover that there are a plethora of dialects spoken in Spanish and they differ substantially from one to the other. When translating into Spanish, you need to know which dialect you’re going for. You can choose this based on the location of the Spanish speakers, from Mexico, to Cuba to Spain, or if you’re translating copy for a website you can explore where most of your views are going to be coming from.
Getting the dialect right is essential for making Spanish readers feel catered to. Localized Spanish dialects might miss the mark entirely and make readers feel like the content is not for them. If your Spanish is too “international” then your content will lose its personal feel. Think carefully about which dialect you’re going to use to make your readers feel right at home.
Take Your Tone – Usted Or Tú?
Spanish, unlike English, frequently employs two variants of “you” depending on whether the “you” referred to is formal or informally known. Understanding the difference between usted and tú is essential because the wrong form has the power to offend, or lower the tone.
“If you’re addressing your audience informally, building rapport or writing casually, tú is the way to go,” says Teresa Nale, a business writer at 1Day2Write and Write My X. “In formal settings such as business writing, using usted will emphasize a professional relationship.” Make sure you know your audience so you can gauge which form you’re going to use.
Understand The Subject
Whatever you’re translating, whether it’s a legal document or a book review, you’re going to need an intimate understanding of the subject of the original text. By having your own understanding of the text, and one that isn’t simply received from the document you’re looking at, will give you better insight into word selection and tone used by the original writer. Research the background of the subject you’re translating on to produce a higher quality translation.
Take Care With Idiomatic Language
Idiomatic language – referring to the figures of speech that rely on metaphor and cultural connotations – is often used to color a text, but translators have to be wary not to stumble over these. Directly translating an idiom often creates something incomprehensible as these are heavily localized expressions.
In Spanish, for example, meter la pata is an expression used to mean to make a mistake. The direct translation of this, “to put a leg on it”, means nothing in English. Likewise translating English idioms such as break a leg for “good luck” or bite the bullet for “facing up” will become gibberish if they’re directly translated. Hunting for the perfect expression to replace these idioms in Spanish will require care.
Spanish Takes Up More Space
When you’re translating between English and Spanish it’s important to remember that providing the same amount of information in a text in Spanish often uses more words and characters than the same information in English. “This is a function largely of the respective grammar of these languages,” says Patrica Burchett, a translator at Britstudent and Origin Writings, “and it means that if you’re fitting a tight word count you may need to be efficient in your translations, or bulk out the English version a little more.”
One of the quirks of the Spanish language is the feature of question marks and exclamation marks appearing, flipped upside down, at the start of sentences as well as at the end. Many new translators are afraid to include these essential features of Spanish punctuation, perhaps because they look so unusual to English speakers, or because they struggle to locate them on the keyboard. However, any Spanish text that lacks the proper punctuation will look unprofessional so take care to punctuate correctly.
Translating into Spanish can open up a world of opportunity. Utilize these key points to produce perfectly professional Spanish translations for any dialect. Adiós!
Michael Dehoyos is a professional translator and editor at PhD Kingdom and Academic Brits. He studied Spanish and Marketing at the University of Warwick before moving to Madrid. He works best sitting in a sunny plaza with a black coffee on hand. He is also a staff writer at Coursework Writer.