The Fifteen Hardest English Words To Translate Into Spanish

Virginia Orozco
August 26, 2022
Translate English to Spanish

It is well known the incredible task it is to translate. Just imagine trying to communicate an idea or concept that was formulated in a brain conditioned by a language, thus a culture. When we are translating, what we’re actually doing is adapting a message from one language to another, that has different systems and contexts; let’s bear in mind that some concepts that exist in some cultures; don’t exist or are unknown to others.

Spanish is a language that has its origins in Latin and Greek, but along the way it has been incorporating a large number of words from other languages ​​into its vocabulary.

Today we use words that come from French (chef, chalet), Arabic (ojalá, alfombra,), Italian (pasta, chao, balcón), and many other languages, such as German and Japanese. All these words are part of the history of Spanish speakers who decided to use them at a specific time, out of the lack of a term that expressed the same meaning to translate it and also due to the economy of language. Usually the word of the other language was more comfortable to use than the word itself or because it had a richer meaning in nuances. Especially with English, Spanish has had the hardest time finding fair equivalents. 

Seeing and using the words “posts”, “likes”, “timeline”, you can assume that they are being used in any daily conversation in English, not in Spanish. However taking into consideration that the world becomes more globalized by the minute with the internet, particularly social media that plays a decisive role in everybody’s lives: news, entertainment, work, shopping, cooking, etc; English as the most spoken language, establishes the terms to be used to designate new trends, features and events.

In this sense, it’s only natural that the rest of the languages adapt to the terminology in the easiest and fastest way: copying it; not translating them. Thus you will find English verbs that end up having a regular conjugation in Spanish even though they have a perfect translation: taguear (etiquetar), favoritear (marcar como favorito) or postear (publicar).

Nevertheless, as much as the RAE may not like this, there are words that just don’t have the same meaning with the translation or just don’t have that “cool” same meaning, therefore we are left with no option: 

“Scrolling” through your screen for hours to stalk your “crush” on their profile is just something very different than deslizar (¿qué?) para acosar a la persona que te gusta, revisando su perfil. Throughout their page you’ll find lots of “selfies” of their fit” body not fotos frontales de su cuerpo en forma.

How can we describe the frustrating feeling of “spoilers” by our friends who do more harm than contar or sabotear the juicy parts? Some of those spoilers come from “random” people that appear on our timeline and they are not necessarily desconocidos or aleatorios. They are just random.

The word “casting” that the Real Academia Española had to keep it exactly how it is because no equivalent was found in Spanish, the same goes for software, reality show and DVD -yup, the latter dinosaur still exists and it is pronounced “devedé” in Spain-.

Finally, how can we describe the occupation of “gamers” and “influencers” that set what’s “cool” or not and who become the target of “marketing” designers? 

When it comes to translating words, it’s clear that there are many challenges due to cultures and appreciation of realities, but what happens when you want to represent a shared reality in a different language? Have you had trouble having to use a translation that just doesn’t feel like the original word? 

Tell us in the comment section and remember you can join our Spanish learners community in WorldsAcross.

What are you wating for? Learn the real Spanish!

Virginia Orozco

Virginia Orozco

BA in Modern Languages and Political Scientist. Spanish-English-French Translator. Copywriter. Linguistics and Arts Enthusiast.

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