Thinking about one single Spanish won´t give you a suitable eBook translation

Spanish is the primary language of 20 countries and is spoken by over 406 million people in the planet. Because of that, there are many different Spanish dialects, and not taking these variations into consideration when translating your eBook, may result in a big headache for you.

Many words have very diverse meanings in different countries in Latin America:

  • The word that is used to designate a baby diaper in some regions of Cuba is a terrible insult in Mexico, yet in the drug dealing slang, that same word is used to describe a very specific type of criminal.
  • The word originally used for a kitchen assistant in Spain, constitutes an insult in most Latin America.
  • When you are talking about computers, people in Spain will say “ordenador,” while people in Latin America will say “computadora.” When you talk about a file, you will hear “fichero” in Spain and “archivo” in Mexico.
  • If you want a cigarette and politely ask for a “pitillo” in many countries of Latin America, people will look funny at you and you probably won’t get anything at all.

The examples are endless and will always produce funny or awkward situations.

Using the wrong term in the wrong country will only give you a blank stare, if not an offended person, although you may think you are speaking “Spanish.”

Some other common words have to be used carefully always, as the playful nature of the Latino makes them find a double meaning in many sentences. Yet, this way of thinking may seem totally strange for someone who didn’t grow up in this culture.

The regular Spanish spoken in Argentina can be very different from the Mexican equivalent and that is the reason why many global companies create different Spanish versions for all their products. Disney, for example, has been creating at least two different versions of their movies for decades now. I remember buying “The Incredibles” in Spanish: you could listen to it in Mexican Spanish, in Argentinean Spanish and in Neutral Latin American Spanish. We all had a wonderful time listening to the Mexican version, but laughed like crazy when we watched the Argentinean version. I imagine people in Argentina do the same when they listen to the Mexican version. The Neutral Latin American Spanish version was beautiful, since it was perfectly understandable for all countries and featured neutral accents in all the voices.

On the other hand, listening to Darth Vader tell Luke Skywalker that he was his father, in a Spaniard Spanish, was probably one of the worst experiences in my life and totally ruined the movie for me.

So, when you choose a translator for your literary work, I would give you the following advices, based on my experience:

  • Don’t choose someone who “studied Spanish at College and got great notes at it” if they are not natives of a Spanish speaking country. They probably won´t know the subtleties of the language and will give you a mediocre or boring product.
  • If you have a specific country in mind, pick someone who was born and/or spent a long time in that particular country. I have turned down clients who wanted a Venezuelan translation because, although I can produce a Neutral Latin American Translation, I am not an expert on the Spanish spoken at Venezuela. Keep in mind too that the Spanish spoken in Spain is incredibly different from anything spoken in America.
  • If you don´t have a particular market in mind, choose someone who can produce a Neutral Latin American version.
  • Translators are specialized professionals: if you have a literary work, do not select a legal, medical or in general, a non literary translator.

You have spent countless hours crafting your story and painstakingly selecting every word in English. Do not sacrifice the quality of your book and your name in a casual selection for a translator. Go for the gold!

Read some other tips that we have given on the past about translating your eBook into Spanish here.

  Our mission is to help English writing authors reach new markets in other languages. If you have an eBook in English we can help you reach the Latino community, translating your work to Spanish. Contact us at http://www.publicatuebook.ca or at joe@publicatuebook.ca

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How to translate your eBook to Spanish, part I

Perhaps you have written a novel or a children’s book and are now looking into taking it to the Latin American market. You now need your kindle eBook in Spanish.

Let’s start talking about what not to do.

Tip 1 for translating your eBook into Spanish.- Do not use an automatic translation option, such as Google Translator.

This option will not produce a professional output, and because you may not be proficient in the target language, you will not even realize that your precious work has just been massacred.

To prove my point, I would select some paragraphs written in English and translate them to Spanish using Google Translator. Then we could go over the errors in grammar or style. But I believe most authors reading this blog do not speak Spanish, so we will take an alternate route. We will translate from Spanish to English and look at the errors there. That should give you a fair idea of what I’m talking about. I will select a Spanish version of a piece I believe you would be familiar with.

As an example, let´s work with the famous St Crispin’s Day Speech that Henry V gives to his troops before the Battle of Agincourt. This, of course, was written by William Shakespeare.

Here is a version in Spanish:

“Este día es la fiesta de Crispiniano:
El que sobreviva a este día y vuelva sano a casa,
Se pondrá de puntillas cuando se nombre este día,
Y se enorgullecerá ante el nombre de Crispiniano.
El que sobreviva a este día, y llegue a una edad avanzada,
Agasajará a sus vecinos en la víspera de la fiesta,
Y dirá: ‘Mañana es San Crispiniano’.
Entonces se alzará la manga y mostrará sus cicatrices
Y dirá, ‘Estas heridas recibí el día de Crispiniano ‘.
Los viejos olvidan: y todo se olvidará,
Pero él recordará con ventaja
Qué hazañas realizó en ese día: entonces recordará nuestros nombres
familiares en sus labios como palabras cotidianas –
Harry el rey, Bedford y Exeter,
Warwick y Talbot, Salisbury y Gloucester –
Se recordarán como si fuera ayer entre sus jarras llenas.”

Let´s run this by Google Translator and see what we come up with:

“This day is the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day and return home safe,
Will tiptoe when this day is named,
And’ll be proud to name Crispiniano.
He that outlives this day, and reaches an advanced age,
It regale your neighbors on the eve of the feast,
And say, ‘Tomorrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then lift up his sleeve and show his scars
And say, ‘These wounds I received Crispiniano day’.
Old men forget: and all forget,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats did that day: then he remembered our names
family on his lips as everyday words –
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester –
They remember like it was yesterday between her full hips.”

Are you happy with the output? The meaning or the grammar in some lines has been lost or deformed, but if the text is automatically translated without a careful edit in the target language, who will notice it before it is released?

Also, while you could say the general idea is there, it could be argued that the new text does not reflect the time or the style in which the original was written; that the force and the intention have been lost.

This example covers just some lines. Imagine trying to read the whole play with this translation quality.

And this is a lucky example. Others can turn out much worse.

Would you put that version out with your name on it without even editing it in the target language? Just look at the original piece and compare it with our automatic version.

This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford
 and Exeter,
Warwick
 and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.

Here is another experiment that you can do, even if you don’t speak one single word of Spanish:

  1. Take a paragraph of your own writing,
  2. Translate it into Spanish using Google Translator,
  3. Take that Spanish text and translate it back into English,
  4. Look at that new English version,
  5. Are you happy with it? Does it sound like you? Is it grammatically correct?

Don’t get me wrong: Google Translator is a wonderful tool for many things; I just don’t think it is the best option for your carefully crafted literary work.

What are your thoughts or experiences on this? Write your comments and let me know!

Our mission is to help English writing authors reach new markets in other languages. If you have an eBook in English we can help you reach the Latino community, translating your work to Spanish. Contact us at http://www.publicatuebook.ca or at joe@publicatuebook.ca