The most common mistakes in english-spanish translation

The most common mistakes in english-spanish translation

Most translations in Latin America have English as their source or target language, and the use of specialized or colloquial language, literalism or certain word combinations have brought certain vices into play. Yet there is zero tolerance for these kinds of mistakes in the business world, where translations must be precise, contextualized and specialized.

We have compiled some of the most common errors when translating from English to Spanish:

  1. False Friends

What is a false friend in translation? False friends are words with similar roots which therefore have a similar sound or spelling but different meanings. For example:

  • The word “bigot” does not mean bigote, it means fánatico.
  • The word “exit” is not éxito, it is salida.
  • The word “embarrassed” is not embarazada, it is avergonzada/o

(be especially careful with this one).

An unprofessional translation may include serious mistakes due to the similarity between these words.

  • Adjectives

Another common mistake in English-Spanish translations is the position of adjectives. Don’t forget that adjectives in English go before nouns.

For example, beautiful sky.

In Spanish, the order is reversed, cielo hermoso.

Although a literal translation of this example would not affect the meaning of the phrase and is often used as a stylistic choice in literature, excessive use of such wording can make a text confusing or pedantic.

  • Articles

In English, articles are often omitted before nouns, as in the following example:

Water and air are essential for life.

A literal translation of this sentence into Spanish would give us “agua y aire son esenciales para vida,” which is rather sparse and odd-sounding.

There are also cases where the article is omitted in the Spanish whereas in English it needs to be included. For instance “I am a carpenter” would be translated correctly into Spanish as soy carpintero and not soy un carpintero.

While some of these mistakes in themselves may seem minor, the trouble is that they occur far too often in translations and undermine the credibility of the translated message or information. It should be remembered that industry and business require 100% accurate technical translations.

In professional translation services the devil is in the details. If you need a top quality technical translation for your business then check out this option:

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