Translations English to Spanish, Sounds Simple But is Not That Simple

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Searching for translation services, specifically from English to Spanish, has been a continuous trend on Google for the last year. Surprisingly, during the same period, few people searched for translation services from English to Portuguese.

As markets in Latin America continue to develop and more professional business relationships are built between the United States and the Latin American countries, the need for qualified translation services will increase.

Translating technical documents from English into Spanish, even when it appears easy, is a task that deserves all your attention because translated documents need to leave a positive impression for your brand.

The Translation Problem

One strategic area of business for the Signalis Group is the translation of technical documents, from English to Spanish and from English to Portuguese. We provide services for translating brochures, customer stories, press releases, datasheets, and other business documents, but we also provide proofreading services.

Through our proofreading services, we have been able to identify translation issues for our customers that affect the quality of their messaging. These translation issues result in a poor image for the company as they try to communicate to their specific audience.

The translation issues I’m referring to are: awkward translations that don’t entirely make sense; grammar issues that leave a poor image of your brand voice; incorrect word translations that confuse your customers and prospects; speaking in an inappropriate tone of voice, which gives your documents the wrong personality; and the use of “overused” or “incorrect” words in the communications.

Unfortunately, some companies don’t know how to effectively handle translations and occasionally delegate this important promotional task to resources that may not have the appropriate experience or training to interpret technical documentation and deliver the translated documents that are accurate.

In other cases, some companies don’t translate any documents and end up distributing their technical papers only in English to markets where customers and prospects may partially understand the language, leaving a gap in their understanding of the company’s messages.

This article will dig a little bit deeper on the issues that may affect your document translations with recommendations you can implement to ensure the correct communications footprint for your brand in the Latin America markets.

If you need help with a translation or have any comments regarding this article, leave us a message here.

Five Issues to Repair in Your Technical Translations

As I mentioned in the previous section, the five most common issues that can affect your translations from English to Spanish or Portuguese are:

  • Word awkwardness
  • Mistakes in grammar
  • Incorrect word translations
  • Wrong tone of voice
  • Using a limited vocabulary

In the following sections I will provide recommendations on how to resolve each issue. 

Awkward Translations

What we mean by awkward translations is when a document has one or more segments in which the terms don’t flow naturally. You have that uneasy feeling of reading content that doesn’t make 100% sense but you’re not sure what word is causing the problem.

This issue occurs because the person that translated the document is not a professional translator with a vast vocabulary or maybe the person is not a native speaker. One thing to keep in mind regarding this issue is that the words used may be a correct in Spanish or Portuguese, but it just doesn’t fit well in the translated narrative.

Grammar issues can also be involved and result in awkward text.

Mistakes in Grammar

Ouch, this is an all too common mistake. One of the skills that a good translator must have is to be a solid writer. Few things can damage a corporate image more than a translation with grammar mistakes.

What’s more, a document with grammar issues will erode the credibility of the person or company delivering the message.

Spanish and Portuguese are tricky languages because they have graphic accents. Portuguese is even more challenging than Spanish because Portuguese has different accents that Spanish doesn’t have such as the tilde (~), the grave accent (`), the agudo accent (´) and the circunflejo (^).

All of the accents have different uses and impact the pronunciation and the reading, for these reasons they are important is use correctly.

Like the accent issue, there are several other grammar risks that your documents can face, for example there is verb conjugation.

To avoid grammar issues in your translations to Spanish and Portuguese, we recommend you work with a translator that not only knows the equivalent terms between the languages, but also knows the grammar rules that govern each language.

Incorrect Word Translations  

Mistranslation is a rarely seen issue in the Spanish/Portuguese translations that we’ve reviewed, but it is critical. It means that a section of a document in Spanish or Portuguese has a different meaning from the one intended in the original English text.

It occurs when the Spanish or Portuguese aren’t the translator’s primary language. The person may be able to speak one or both of the Latin languages but they don’t have all the tools to adequately transfer the meaning of the word.

The worst consequence of this issue is that it leaves the translation itself with a void, as the translated words do not make sense to the reader. To avoid the mistranslation issue, work with a translator that knows your industry well to ensure the words are translated correctly.

Wrong Tone of Voice

Strong brands work hard to position themselves in the market. A critical component of that brand identity is the tone of voice; in other words, the way the brand speaks to their customers, partners and prospects.

A company reaches a position in the market partly due to the way it communicates with its market audiences. It is paramount that the translator your company uses knows your corporate tone of voice so he/she can transfer this tone to Spanish and Portuguese translated content.

The objective should be to ensure that your brand communicates accurately and consistently, regardless of the language. To make certain your translations don’t result in this issue, ask your translator to read as many corporate documents as he/she can to improve their understanding of the industry.

Using a Limited Vocabulary

Vocabulary issues refer to the use of the wrong terms or words for a particular industry and that’s a common problem in the translations we have examined. It happens when the translator is not an experienced translator in the industry or doesn’t know what terms the audiences involved in the industry prefer. (in some cases, the problem is not that a word is incorrect, it’s that the industry prefers to use another word or expression.)

Also, in the translation of technical papers, one thing to be considered is the acceptance of foreign expressions for technical terms. This acceptance is common in Portuguese (in Brazil, many people use English words when they talk about technology), but not as common in the Spanish language.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this section, to avoid this issue, partner with a translator that has previous experience in your specific industry.

That’s all I have for now. My objective was to provide you with several key translation issues along with recommendations for eliminating them the next time you purchase translation services for your company. In future articles, we plan to cover in detail the issues that we have covered superficially in this article. We’ll be in touch soon.

If you need help with a translation or have any comments regarding this article, leave us a message here.