Warning: don’t take this post too seriously.
If you do business in English/Spanish every day (particularly between Latin America and the UK), like I do, you will have no doubt come across some words that you will struggle to translate. Some, to me, reflect differences in how we see the world, rather than idiomatic misfortunes.
Take “straightforward”, for example. I find that almost impossible to translate into Spanish. “Fácil”? Not quite. “Simple”? Nop. Is the problem more conceptual, stemming from the fact that there isn’t anything “straightforward” ever in Latin America? If you are laughing/sighing, you’ve been here. And yes, I mean the Spanish-speaking Latin America, let’s always remember there’s Brazil, too (and Spain, we can blame them for most of our shortcomings since that’s where it all comes from – the language, the bureaucracy…)
I asked Eva Túnez Salvador from Genuine Translations (with whom I had the pleasure of working with recently on an Institute of Export webinar on Latin America) about this dilemma. She said she’d normally translate “straightforward” as “fácil” or “sencillo” but she also agrees it’s challenging and that we need to look at the whole context (for example, the whole paragraph).
So how about “consistent”? I ask. If you’re rolling your eyes, you’ve been there, too. We need consistent business practices, consistent manufacturing, consistent customs protocols, consis… but no. It’s Latin America. Don’t be fooled into thinking “consistent” translates into “consistente”, that’s definitely not the case. “Consecuente?” Not quite.
Eva suggests words like “constante”, “continuo” or “uniforme” if we are using “consistent” as meaning something that happens regularly. Also “constant” if we are talking about something that doesn’t stop, without an end. And we could also use “coherente”, “consecuente” or “que concuerda con” when we mean “consistent with”.
“These are words that are easily confused because of the very slight nuances between their different meanings”, she patiently explains.
Eva suggests, apart from looking at the context, using sites like https://www.proz.com/search/ for help. I personally try to explain the word… “we need your practices to be consistent over time, that is, don’t change too much unless there’s a good reason to, we need some coherence, some stability”. And hope.
I asked Eva if there any other expressions she finds challenging to translate? She gives me one more example, to “reverse-park a process”… Good one…
Could you think of any other examples? When do you get stuck when translating between ENG/SPA or viceversa? Leave us your thoughts below or tweet them!
Language differences, in my opinion, far from being a problem, are a fantastic way of getting to see the world through the eyes of other people. And we need that a lot when we do business around the world, would you agree?
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