By Adriana Adarve – Owner of Adarve Translations
In A Story of Two Languages, one of them, the Spanish Language, is confused, baffled even at times, and is looking for answers from its friend, the English Language.
In the United States, English and Spanish are the two most spoken languages. It is here that this dialogue takes place between these two friends:
– “Why is it that some people treat us as if we were one and the same?” Asks the Spanish language.
– “I really do not know what you mean by that,” answers the English language.
– “Surely you must know what I mean, especially when people write my language as if they were directly ‘transferring’ yours to mine!” retorts the Spanish language. “Let’s take, for example, the matter of capitalization. We both know that the rules of capitalization are different for both languages, yet when some people write an English text into my language, they use the English rules of capitalization rather than the Spanish ones! It is quite vexing, quite vexing, my friend.”
– “Uh… That is such an interesting point! Why do you think this happens?”
– “Huh! That was my question to you. I guess you have no idea either, do you?”
Isn’t this an interesting question? When writing texts from English into Spanish, why would some people treat both languages as if they were one and the same, even when it is clear that they are definitely not the same?
I would like to shed some light into this dilemma that is so vexing to the Spanish language and its readers and speakers.
Even though Spanish speakers know the rules of capitalization of their own language, and the correct way to use these rules, when it comes to writing English texts into Spanish, not all those who claim to be bilingual and able to “translate” have actually been trained as translators.
Only trained Spanish translators, who are experts in their native language, including its nuances, will pay close attention to the correct writing of their language in order to honor their mother tongue and its speakers around the world.
A well trained Spanish translator will know without a doubt that the rules of capitalization in English are not the same as those in Spanish. That is the reason why an expert Spanish translator will not use capital letters when writing the names of the days of the week, months, seasons, winds, languages, nationalities and religions. They also know that while capitalization standards in English dictate that first letters of all words in a title are to be capitalized, with the exception of articles, coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions, Spanish capitalization rules state that only the first word of the title of any creative work (books, films, paintings, sculptures, musicals, radio or TV programs) should be capitalized, while the rest of the words of said title should be written in lowercase.
Thus, the answer to the question our Spanish Language friend asked at the beginning of this Story of Two Languages is simply that people claiming to be “fully” bilingual and capable of writing text from English into Spanish is no guarantee that such text will be written according to the rules established by the Spanish language. Only linguists highly trained in Spanish translation know the real differences, subtle or not so subtle, between both languages.
So, remember, just being bilingual or having a bilingual contact at hand is not a guarantee of written competence or skill in translation if the rules of the target language are not followed.
All the best!
Adriana Adarve, Asheville, NC
About the Author: Adriana Adarve is the owner of Adarve Translations and is fluent in three languages (English, Spanish & French), as well as pluri-cultural, multi-cultural, plurilingual and multilingual.