Monday, February 23, 2015

‘Monte’ in English

Monte means “Mount” (as in the name of a mountain), of course, but it also means “tierra inculta cubierta de árboles, arbustos o matas(RAE); in other words, “bush”.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I was familiar with ‘suponer(se)’ meaning ‘to assume’ or ‘to suppose,’ or used to express ‘supposed to’ in texts by Latin American authors, so I was stymied at first when I ran into a different usage from Spanish authors. This usage corresponds to meaning #3 in the DRAE (and perhaps metaphorical use of #5):
(Del lat. supponĕre).
1. tr. Dar por sentado y existente algo.
2. tr. Fingir, dar existencia ideal a lo que realmente no la tiene.
3. tr. Traer consigo, importar. La nueva adquisición que ha hecho supone desmedidos gastos de conservación.
4. tr. Conjeturar, calcular algo a través de los indicios que se poseen.
5. intr. Tener representación o autoridad en una república o en una comunidad.
Here are some options for rendering these meanings of ‘suponer’ in English:
  • mean
  • represent
  • imply
  • involve
  • entail
  • present
  • result in
  • have
  • be

Monday, September 09, 2013

False friends in ES>EN pharmaceutical translations

In her blog, “Signs & Symptoms of Translation”, Emma Goldsmith has a brief but very relevant and useful list of false friends in ES>EN pharmaceutical translation.

Friday, November 16, 2012

German–Spanish correspondence that skips over the English middleman

An English speaker learning German will note many correspondences and cognates between the English and German languages. English is, indeed, a member of the Germanic family of languages.

Likewise, an English speaker learning Spanish will notice many cognates – mostly different ones – between English and Spanish, due mainly to the Latin roots of Spanish and the influence of Latin on English.
There are many fewer correspondences between Spanish and German, and very few that skip over English altogether, but here are three that I’ve noticed:
  1. German and Spanish use the same word for “heaven” and “sky” (Himmel and cielo, respectively), unlike English.
  2. German and Spanish use the same word for “morning” and “tomorrow” (Morgen and mañana, respectively), unlike English.
  3. This one is a little more complex to explain. A long-running popular detective show on German TV is called “Tatort,” literally “the place (Ort) of the deeds (Tat),” but the compound word translates to “scene of the crime.”  “El lugar de los hechos,” in Spanish again would literally mean “the place of the deeds/events” but the phrase, like the German compound word, has the connotation of “the scene of the crime.”

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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Annals of bad literary translation

I’m excited to have another amazing story to add to Life in Translation’s collection of bad literary translations.  At the same time, though, it’s disappointing to see that French readers who thought they were reading classic 1950’s hardboiled detective and noire novels were actually reading distorted and condensed versions of them.

Here is the L’Expresse article: Polars américains: la traduction était trop courte.  [American detective novels: The translation was too short.]

Too short—the article relates how entire paragraphs and even chapters were cut out for the translated versions (sound familiar? but the result will have been even worse in mystery novels, where it may result in clues being lost). In some cases, where the amputations (as the article calls them) left the story incomprehensible, bridging text was invented out of whole cloth. The L’Expresse article includes shocking photos of the vandalized text that the translators were supposed to work from.

Moreover, the translators apparently simply didn’t understand English well enough to produce accurate translations. One example: in a scene in James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss, the detective goes to a topless bar. In French, the bar is topless too, but “without a roof”; i.e., homeless.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Creating translations that sound like originals: some examples

In the current issue of Panace@, a Spanish language journal of medical translation and interpretation, Juan Manuel Martín Arias has a short article (pdf) illustrating some pitfalls of over-literal translation of certain terms from English to Spanish.

Turning his examples around results in a lesson in obtaining natural-sounding translations from Spanish to English.

 In Spanish, a drug (medicamento, not droga, but that’s another story) is “consumed” or “administered:”  
El consumo de antidepresivos tricíclicos produce efectos secundarios de tipo anticolinérgico.
La administración de antidepresivos tricíclicos produce efectos secundarios anticolinérgicos.
Los antidepresivos tricíclicos producen efectos secundarios anticolinérgicos.
These words (consume, administer) would not be out of place in English versions of these sentences, but as Martín Arias points out, they are the correct translations of  “use” or “utilize” in this context; hence:  
The use of tricyclic antidepressant agents is associated with anticholinergic side effects.

In Spanish, a drug is not initiated, interrupted or suspended; rather it is treatment that is initiated, interrupted or suspended. Thus, if you have the sentences
El tratamiento con amlodipina se suspenderá al menos 3 meses antes del inicio del estudio clínico.
Se dejará de administrar la amlodipina como mínimo tres meses antes de iniciar el estudio clínico.

you might be inclined to translate them as
Amlodipine treatment should be suspended within 3 months before trial initiation.

But if you realize that these sentences are proper translations of
Amlodipine should be discontinued within 3 months before trial initiation.
you will get an English version that is more propio del inglés.

Here is Juan Manuel’s other example illustrating this point:
He gives
El tratamiento con antiangiosos se iniciará lo antes posible.
La administración de antianginosos debe empezar tan pronto como sea posible.
as translations of
Antianginal agents should be initiated as soon as possible.

Without taking this into consideration, you might translate these sentences as
Antianginal treatment should be initiated as soon as possible.
Administration of antianginal agents should begin as soon as possible.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

A new old translation of the US national anthem into Spanish

In 2006, a new Spanish version of the US national anthem generated some controversy. In particular, the 2006 version included a new, original second verse.

A forgotten 1945 version, translated by a Peruvian immigrant to the US, Clothilde Arias, was recently recovered. Curator Marvette Perez researched the translation for three years, preparing the exhibit for the Smithsonian Institution. The story is printed here and here.

Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” to secure allies in Latin America during World War II, the State Department initiated exchanges of artists, musicians, poets and writers. As part of that cultural diplomacy, they began a competition with the Music Educators National Conference to create an original translation of the national anthem that could be sung and shared abroad.
“I found it fascinating that different political times demand different political things to happen,” Perez said.
Arias won the competition and a contract paying her $150. It specified the translation must be as close as possible to the English song in rhyme, verse and meter.
“For example, the word we say is ‘flag,’ or ‘bandera.’ But she used ‘pendon,’ which is literally banner,” Perez said. “That’s the exact word in English. In that way, it’s faithful.”
The Washington Post article has an image of the draft of Arias’s version of the anthem, but no printed final version. Perhaps it will be published after it has been performed.