Challenges of Translating from English into Spanish

Last October I attended the Second Conference of Young Researchers in Anglophone Studies at Universidad de Salamanca, where PhD students from all over Spain gathered to present our research papers on Literary, Cultural and Linguistic Studies. One of the most interesting presentations that I attended at this conference was Dr Fernando Toda’s, a translator and teacher at the Translation faculty in Salamanca. In his plenary session, he spoke about some of the numerous challenges he has encountered when translating from English into Spanish, and gave us so many interesting (and fun!) examples to think about. A lot of Translation students were there and I could not help wishing my students from UVic were there too!

Dr Toda Iglesia dealt with several questions like what to do when you find a mistake in the source text; is it your duty as a translator to correct it? He mentioned the case of Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue where it says that Spanish and French are spoken by 250,000 people! As it is obviously a huge mistake, it was corrected by the translator.

But I guess my favorite part of his talk was when he dealt with the specific problems that the English language presents to a Spanish translator. What should we do with the pronoun “you”? How do we know when “you” is “tú” and when it is “usted”? And what about grammatical gender? Dr Toda Iglesia gave us an example from his translation of J. Robert Lennon’s Mailman, where they talk about “the kid” and the reader never knows if it is a boy or a girl. Dr Toda Iglesia said he finally went for “el chico”, whereas I think maybe “la criatura” would have solved the gender problem. But still, does not “la criatura” sound younger than “the kid”?

These are just a few of the examples that he mentioned. There were many other points to watch out for, like semantic and morphological changes when dealing with older texts, phonetic word-play that gets lost in translation, and some cases of cultural shock, especially when using swear words. In any case, this makes you wonder whether the final text ends up being a translation or an adaptation of the original.

Auba Llompart

About Auba Llompart

Doctora en Filologia Anglesa per la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (2014) i professora agregada de llengua i cultura angleses en el Departament de Traducció, Interpretació i Llengües Aplicades de la Universitat de Vic - Universitat Central de Catalunya.
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