The Challenges of Adverbs III

This article will examine some of the more common challenges posed when translating demonstrative adverbs into Spanish. Spanish translators must remember that the demonstrative adverbs ‘aquí´ and ‘acá´, which mean ‘here´ and ‘allí´, ‘ahí´, ‘allá´, which mean ‘there´, cannot be used as substitutes for each other.

During Spanish translation, translators must be able to distinguish between the difference in usage of ‘aquí´ and ‘acá´. Both refer to a place or location that is in the vicinity of the speaker or the subject, but ‘aquí´, unlike ‘acá´ cannot be used with a verb of motion. ‘Records are sold here´ will be translated into ‘Aquí se venden discos´ but ‘Paco, ven acá´ will be translated into ‘Paco, come here´.

Degree of Separation

‘Ahí´, ‘allí´ and ‘acá´ are used to refer to gradually increasing degrees of separation from the speaker. The increase in distance is accompanied by an increasing indeterminacy about the location itself. ‘Ahí´ refers to a specific location relatively close to the speaker. The Spanish translation of ‘Put the suitcases there´ will be ‘Ponga usted las maletas ahí´.

‘Allí´ refers to a specific location that is physically at a distance from the speaker. Hence, ‘Oaxaca is in the south of Mexico. My cousin lives there´ will be translated into Spanish as ‘Oaxaca está en el sur de México. Mi primo vive allí.´ ‘Allá´ refers to an indefinite location at an indefinite distance. It is used with verbs of motion. For example, ‘I´d like to go there, where life is better´ will be rendered in Spanish translation as ‘Quisiera ir allá, donde la vida es mejor.´

The Spanish expression ‘el más allá´ corresponds to the English expression ‘the great beyond´ or ‘the other world´. Thus, ‘Perhaps we will see each other in the other world´ can be translated without hesitation into ‘Quizás nos veamos en el más allá.´

"Muy" and "Mucho"

Here we will examine the challenging task of rendering the frequently encountered adverbs ‘muy´ and ‘mucho´ in Spanish translation. By itself, ‘mucho´ is an adjective. But when it is used in a comparative sentence, ‘mucho´ serves the function of an adverb. For example, ‘Éstos son mucho mejores que los otros´ (These are much better than the others.) ‘Muy´ is simply the adverbial form of the adjective ‘mucho´.

While working on a Spanish translation, translators must first be able to decide on whether they are using ‘mucho´ as an adjective or as an adverb. If they decide to us ‘mucho´ as an adverb, they must remember that ‘mucho´ no longer needs to show any agreement with the adjective it modifies.

The second thing that translators must remember when working on a Spanish translation is that the adverb ‘muy´ can never be used by itself, unlike the English ‘very´. If ‘very´ is being used by itself in an English expression, then its Spanish translation must, without fail, be ‘mucho´. Thus, ‘Is his girlfriend pretty? Yes, very´ will be translated into Spanish as ‘Es bonita su novia? Sí, mucho´.

No literal equivalent exists in Spanish for the English expression ‘so much´. It must be replaced by the shorter Spanish expression ‘tanto´. Thus, ‘These children talk so much´ will be translated into ‘Estos chicos hablan tanto´. The translator must resist the urge to use the non-existent form ‘tan mucho´.


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