Lexical Issues in Spanish Translation
Lexical issues in Spanish translation refer to the lexical mismatches that occur between a source text and their translated version.
Lexical issues in Spanish translation can arise due to any one of the following reasons:
- The existence of false cognates, that is, words that look the same but have different meanings. For example ‘delito´ and ‘delight´, where the Spanish word means ‘crime´ or ‘offence´ while the English word means ‘pleasure´; ‘educado´ and ‘educated´, where the Spanish word means ‘well-mannered´ while the English word means ‘with a formal education´; ‘éxito´ and ‘exit´, where the Spanish word means ‘success´ while the English word means ‘to leave´ or ‘to depart´. (Some examples of true cognates: ‘museum´ and ‘museo´, ‘president´ and ‘presidente´, ‘family´ and ‘familia´. Not only do the words look the same, but they also mean the same.)
- Exact synonymy or correspondence is difficult to find between any two languages. They generally exist only in the case of naming words, like ‘pen´, ‘book´, ‘computer´, etc.
- The existence of false cognates and the absence of exact synonymy, the two causes of lexical issues in Spanish translation, can be explained in terms of the etymology of languages. Two words may have been born out of the same root, but they may have evolved differently, or the resemblance between the two words may be purely a matter of form.
Semantic mapping, a visual strategy that displays words that are related to one another in categories, plays an important role in solving lexical issues in Spanish translation by enabling us to understand lexical correspondences as well as lexical mismatches. There are various categories of semantic mapping:
- In the first category, a word is shown to include several others within its meaning. Thus a specific dog, say, ‘Buster´, is included within the word ‘spaniel´, which in turn is included within the word ‘dog´, which is within the word ‘canine´, which is within the word ‘animal´, and so on. This can be represented diagrammatically as: Buster-spaniel-dog-canine-animal. Words in this category generally have one-to-one correspondence or a full overlap with Spanish words: Buster=Buster; dog=perro; canine=canino, and so on.
- In the second category, a word in the source language is shown to have a wider meaning in the target language. For example, the English word ‘girlfriend´ can be translated into either ‘fiancée´ or ‘bride or even the simple sense of girlfriend in Spanish. The reverse can also happen, that is, a word in the target language may have a more specific meaning than its source language counterpart.
- In the third category, words that have similar meanings, but which differ from each other in terms of usage or connotations are placed together. For example, the words ‘union´, and ‘coalition´, implies ‘joining together´, but they are used in very specific instances. One can talk of a union and not a coalition of souls.
- The fourth category includes words with opposite meanings, such as ‘wide´ and ‘narrow´, ‘thin´ and ‘fat´, etc.
Spanish translators can overcome lexical issues in Spanish translation by avoiding bilingual dictionaries in favor of single-language dictionaries that also explain the origins of words, and the contexts in which they might possibly be used.