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TIP #41 - This tip was sent on the week: 22th - 28th May, 2005

This tip applies to the following programs:

  • ESI Professional

Using Interactive Translation in ESI Professional – Part I


Let’s start off with a real-life case sent to us from a friend in Argentina. He was complaining that the following sentence:

Bebé café !

was weirdly translated as “Brown baby!” instead of his expected translation “Drink coffee! “


He complained, “How in the world can “bebé café” can come out as “brown baby”?


This mystery has a logical explanation:


In some Latin American countries, especially Argentina and Central America, it is common to use a familiar way of talking known as voseo. The second person pronoun (you) uses the form vos instead of tú. Additionally all imperative modes of conjugation for the second person are accented in the last syllable, escuchá instead of escucha (listen) , comé instead of come (eat), tomá instead of toma (take), and – of course—bebé instead of bebe (drink).


However, in this particular, case bebé is also the correct translation of “baby”. Therefore, ESI chooses to translate bebé as baby and consequently café as the adjective qualifying the noun “baby”, namely, brown. Thus the translation: “Brown baby! “


Generally speaking, in Spanish we have three main forms of speech: The Formal, the Familiar or “tuteo” and the “voseo”.


The Formal Mode is used in all business correspondence throughout Latin America. The second person uses the form “Usted” and is conjugated exactly as the third person. Hence, in Formal Mode, our friend’s sentence from Argentina, correctly speaking, would have to be “Beba café”


The “tuteo” is used as a more familiar way of communication in Latin America. The second person uses the form “tú” in singular, and “ustedes”, in plural. The correct way to write this sentence in Familiar Mode (tuteo) would be “Bebe café”


This is used also in Spain but with fewer liberties. The plural of the second person uses the form “vosotros” instead of “ustedes”


The voseo (“Bebé café”) should be used only in spoken language. At present, there is no translation software anywhere capable of handling the voseo form. Word Magic is planning to develop one by 2006.


So, what happens in Argentina where the voseo is so commonplace that it appears even in written text, like in the case at hand?


With ESI Professional and the Interactive system you can mend even this sentence. Simply select “Bebé” and then click on Vrb using the Part of Speech Selector box, in the Interactive Window.


The translation is immediately changed, as you can see in the screenshot shown below:

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