Translators will approach a challenging translation the same way a mathematician might tackle a head-scratching math problem.
In previous articles we’ve discussed the more common issues people face when translating from Spanish to English; remembering that these obstacles are definitely not discouraging for translators. In fact, it’s actually the opposite. It’s these obstacles that entice and stimulate a good translator: obviously a non-translator would find this kind of work boring and tedious. Translators will approach a challenging translation the same way a mathematician might tackle a head-scratching math problem. This is exciting to them! They love testing themselves and delving into the text to resolve complicated translation issues and then sitting back and enjoying the extreme satisfaction of knowing they just produced a perfect translation.
Some of the challenges faced by a translator might include -
This is a side of the language pair that often creates a lot of frustration. It’s not required in Spanish to include the subject as a pronoun or noun that changes the verb in a sentence when it’s implied who the subject is. On the other hand, in English we should include a pronoun or noun in every sentence that modifies a verb. This creates a lot of confusion as it’s not always easy to determine who the actor is and it’s not always very clearly communicated in the text. A translator will often have to re-read portions of the text then make their decision based the context as to the best way to translate the phrase.
The Question of Gender
In this case the question of gender arises because of the syntactic ambiguity of the Spanish language. Indirect objects lack gender, plus it’s not always required to state the subject in a sentence, furthering the syntactic ambiguity of this language. As an example: in the English sentence ‘He told her’, this could be expressed in the Spanish language with both a subject and a gender ‘El le dijo a ella’ or alternatively without either ‘Le dijo’. With the latter it’s unclear whether either person is female or male. As you can see, in complicated contexts this could become very confusing.
Different Dialects and Vocabulary
The Spanish language is a unique language in that it’s spoken in many continents and countries across the world where the cultures, history, and daily life vary a lot in each area. Because of this, the Spanish language does vary a lot: of course this can be an intriguing factor for translators, but it can also create a few problems. It’s often the informal language that varies the most and this can be seen when translators translate popular media; like subtitles for television and movies. However, even legal and formal language varies a lot from country to country. Any translator working with Spanish to English translation must be acutely aware of these differences and be prepared to research unknown terms.