Addition and Omission in Spanish Translation

First Steps

Addition and omission in Spanish translation can be identified as the discrepancies or the gaps that often distinguish source texts from target texts. Addition and omission in Spanish translation can be defined as techniques of translation through which adjustments are made to the content of the source text. The techniques serve stylistic as well as strategic purposes. The techniques need to be used in order to compensate for the linguistic (structural, stylistic and rhetorical) differences that exist between any two languages. Additions and omissions are more frequent in translation between Spanish and English because the two languages belong to two different linguistic families; they are less frequent in languages that belong to the same linguistic family, like Spanish and Portuguese or French.

Addition in Spanish Translation

Addition in Spanish translation can take any of the following forms: Firstly, it can be an explicit statement of some information that was merely implied or hinted at in the source text. Secondly, it can be an extra piece of information that was not there in the source text. In the first and second cases, the additional information was always embedded in the context or the situation. The translator performed the task of decoding the information. Thirdly, addition also takes place when some information, which occupied secondary status in the source text, is given greater importance in the target text through focus, emphasis or lexical choice. Omission, on the contrary, makes what is explicit in the source text implicit in the target text. What was in the foreground is moved to the background, and the context or the situation is allowed to convey the meaning.

Additions in Spanish translation can comprise explications, explanations and amplifications. Most of the times they are obligatory in nature, that is, they are required by the syntactic and semantic differences between English and Spanish, and because, without them, the target language would sound ungrammatical. Some additions are pragmatic in nature, and are used to fill in the cultural gap between English and Spanish speakers, and to explain concepts that are familiar to the source language speakers but unknown to the target language speakers. Additions also take the form of connectives or links between two ideas, sentences, words or phrases and answers to rhetorical questions.

Addition is more common when translating from English to Spanish because of the need to amplify the pithy English phrases that are marked by a preponderance of adjectives and nouns. On the other hand, omission in Spanish translation is more common when translating from Spanish to English because grammatical forms such as articles and possessives are used less in English.

Examples of Addition and Omission in Spanish Translation

Below there are a few examples of additions and omission in technical Spanish translations:

An English target text has to make clear the distinction between the informal and the formal forms of Spanish, the ‘tú´ and the ‘usted´, either by adding the first name or surname or the nickname, or by the use of casual language. The Spanish pepper their speech with the names of gods and saints. The English translator would have to omit this feature from the target text because it is unnatural in English. An English word like ‘girlfriend´ cannot simply be translated into the Spanish ‘novia´, because the Spanish word can refer either to a girlfriend, or a fiancée, or a bride. The translator will have to add a piece of information to make the reference specific.

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