ENGLISH / SPANISH CURIOSITIES
Published September 6, 2010
I’ve addressed this subject before, but it’s good to bring it up again once in awhile: Converting English projects to Spanish is one of the most complicated ventures you’ll ever take on in the wonderful world of media production.
Each week I get a handful of projects from clients wanting to convert their commercial or narration to Spanish. Cool! That’s one of the main ways I make my living. Clients who do this all the time understand the issues. However, new clients often get quite frustrated with process.
See, English to Spanish isn’t a word for word venture. In fact, Spanish tends to run 20 to 25% longer. Why? Mainly because of syllables. For example the word “train” in Spanish is “ferrocarril.” Three syllables more than in English. “First Aid” is “Primeros Auxilios” – about three times longer to say. And phone numbers? Don’t get me started on phone numbers. Almost every number in Spanish takes twice as long to say as in English.
Then add in the complexities of play on words, colloquialisms, etc. and you can see how difficult the whole thing can get.
Now, take all that and factor in that the client wants it to fit the same format – a 30 second TV spot, a timed narration for video that has to sync up to the points and/or graphics, and so on – and you can see how difficult things can get.
The bottom line (colloquialism) is that you almost always have to cut copy (industry colloquial term). And that can open up a can of worms (try translating that colloquialism) if the copy has to go back to legal (another colloquialism).
So, if you’re wanting to get your English project voiced in Spanish (and by the way, Yes! It has to be translated. We don’t just read it in English and say it in Spanish), you must realize that it’s going to take a little extra time and effort. And if there are any verbiage, copy length and terminology issues it may take even longer.
Now, Spanish to English is a whole different matter! For some reason Spanish copy writers tend to write with great flourish, often quite dramatic and eloquent. It is, of course, a beautiful language. Unfortunately that beauty doesn’t usually translate easily…if at all.
As translators, we often find ourselves searching for terminology and sentence structures that will lend some justice to the original. Not an easy task. For example, part of a Spanish to English translation job I had last week would have literally translated as, “The unnecessary consequences of wrong choices and weak planning will leave one with far reaching complications later in life if even the smallest of details are ignored when choosing a business to change your oil.”
Ahhh…Breathing life into words in English and Spanish. What a fascinating line of work I’ve chosen!