The secret behind successful translation is making sure your end result conveys the actual meaning of the source text. The proper tone and style are just some of the things that can be lost when translating into a target language.
Before beginning any translation or localization project, research your target language and audience. Languages, like Spanish, aren’t the same for every Spanish speaking region. The locales need to be defined, so your translators aren’t using Spanish for Spain when your target audience is in Latin America.
Style, tone and locale are pieces of the translation process that need to be addressed for any type of project, from websites to documents. Below, I have compiled some of the top tips for Spanish translations.
Always do thorough research before beginning work on a new project. Items such as your client’s requirements and goals for the project, subject matter, target languages and locales, along with project type (document, software, website, etc.) need to be understood in order for your project to be successful.
Research the locale and audience that the translated materials are for. Languages are fluid and social, cultural and political environments are always shifting. Staying on top of these trends and changes will allow you to provide the most accurate and appropriate translation.
For highly technical translations, like legal or medical documents, it is essential that you are not only familiar with the language and locale but also experienced with the subject matter. These types of projects are very complex and having knowledge of the terms is necessary for an accurate end result.
There are multiple factors to be considered here:
Tone and Style.
It is crucial that you know who is going to read your translation. Pronouns like “Tu” and “Usted” are not used for the same audiences and you want to avoid any confusion for the intended readers.
Understand what type of text you are translating so you can preserve the style of the content. The target audience for a scientific text on biology will not expect or want to read wordy sentences or humorous expressions. And the audience for a tropical vacation website, will expect colorful, descriptive sentences with a casual and relaxed tone and style.
Know where the target audience is located. Spanish varies from region to region. Terms and phrases used in one region, may not make any sense to Spanish speakers in other regions. It is a huge mistake to assume that Spanish is the same across all regions, and that every Spanish speaker will be able to understand the content’s meaning.
In Spain, the word “carro” is a cart that you push or pull to transport things, but in Latin America, it’s an actual car that you can drive around in. A car in Spain is a “coche,” but a “coche” in Latin America is a baby stroller.
I suggest that you try to avoid conversational expressions as they are most commonly spoken in specific regions only. Excluding idioms will help prevent confusion for the reader. Some idioms may translate across regions, but some may make no sense or have an entirely different meaning. Having a thorough understanding of the target audience will help you decide which terms are appropriate and which are not.
In Argentina, when someone is teasing someone else we refer to that action as “tomar el pelo,” which literally means “to take the hair.” If someone tells you they won $20 million, you might reply: “Me estás tomando el pelo,” which might not be understood by someone in another Spanish speaking country.
Focus on the Meaning
Translate the meaning of the source text and not the words. Literal translation does not sound natural and it could also be incomprehensible in the target language. Focus on interpretation rather than literal translation.
This, in my opinion, is the fundamental and most important rule you must respect if you want to deliver a high quality translation. Using human translators is the best, most reliable type of translation because of the translator’s ability to comprehend the meaning of the text. Machine translation can only translate the word, humans can interpret the text and translate the meaning.
Your translation can never be considered final if an additional translator or editor didn’t proofread and edit it for possible spelling mistakes, grammar or vocabulary issues, or style and tone inconsistencies.
Spell-checker tools are helpful, but after many hours and even days working on the same text, it is very common that you may not notice a grammar mistake that a second and fresh pair of eyes will immediately detect. Proofreading must be a thorough process that is done multiple times, by at least two people.
Some clients may even have in-house staff that will assist in the proofreading and editing process. They may have employees that are native speakers of the target language, and having that additional person that is knowledgeable about the needs of the client and the terminology can make the proofreading process even more effective.
To summarize, I strongly advise that you do proper research on the subject matter you are about to start working with to familiarize yourself with the specific terminology. Check with your client to see who the target audience is and translate exactly the same meaning as the source text. Be sure that you are not focusing literally on the words, rather expressing the content and ideas. Finally, confirm your translation is fully proofread and error-free so the final product meets your client’s expectations and the reader enjoys and appreciates your work.
Further Resources on Spanish and Localization
You may gain further insight into Spanish translation and related topics by reviewing previous blogs and resources written by GPI: