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Allena Tapia

Writing in Two Languages

By November 7, 2011

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I just got off the phone with a client for whom I write press materials in two languages. Explaining to him my process of writing, translating, or editing in Spanish got me thinking about how these actions (in Spanish) tend to get me thinking MORE about the English writing I do.

For example, I couldn't think of a way to translate the word "onus." Yet isn't this just a nice, special word for "responsibility"? So why not use that word? This kind of decision depends on audience and print market, but I would not have even considered it had I not been writing and talking about writing in two languages.

It definitely got me thinking.

November 11, 2011 at 9:41 am
(1) Lori says:

I guess that would depend on the culture, too. I’d written something for a client who was placing the article in a Singapore newspaper. Everything I’ve learned about profiles and marketing and strong copy flew out the window. If I didn’t repeat constantly how special the company was, the folks in Singapore would think it was odd. Talk about a cultural difference!

November 23, 2011 at 4:53 pm
(2) freelancewrite says:

Wow Lori, very very interesting. And how did you learn this? Did the client lead you / educate you in this?

September 18, 2012 at 5:56 pm
(3) Rainer Zawadzki says:

The best translators have spent considerable time (2+years) in the another country. We know the equivalent expressions and very often with different words. It is always interesting to observe how Western culture is used in other cultural, therefore language settings. You cannot separate culture from language: Look at Castillian and Mexican Spanish.


September 19, 2012 at 9:25 am
(4) freelancewrite says:

True that Rainer! I tell my clients this constantly. They really want to work with US-based freelancers. Yet, they’ll get much better translation from natives. My solution (and what works for my business) is to give them both. My main translator was born and raised in Mexico. I also have relationships with translators all over the world to account for differences. The cultural knowledge is an absolute MUST. At the same time, since most of this work is for US-based audiences, they must understand our colloquialisms too. That’s why the best translators are native speakers who live and function HERE.

September 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm
(5) Rainer Zawadzki says:

Pres-contract negotiations need to take what freelancewrite aptly said into consideration. I always try to be aware of the cufflink culture and language.

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