“Grammar and Sound Structure of Spanish: Challenges in English translation”

Posted: August 12th, 2013





“Grammar and Sound Structure of Spanish: Challenges in English translation”


Translating is the process by which the communication of the meaning of one language is changed to another language. The process is best described as interpreting. Many challenges are involved when languages are changed from one to another. In most times, the meanings of the words or phrases are distorted resulting in change of meaning of the translated words. It is therefore important for the person doing the translation to understand the culture and history of the language to be translated. By doing so, it makes it easier for them to understand either what the words mean and give them the best translation that is close to or exactly what the word or phrase means. For a translation to be appropriate there needs to be an efficient study of the language in question. A brief explanation of the language being translated is important and how the interpretation was done.


Spanish to English translation has been attempted by a number of people over the years. Differences between the two languages have made it a challenge for translators to get the exact meanings of the words. The English language has 5 (A, E, I, O, U) vowels and 8 diphthongs, which differs from the Spanish language, which has 5 vowels similar to those of the English language, and 7 falling and 8 rising diphthongs. The falling diphthongs are; [ai̯], [au̯], [ei̯], [eu̯], [oi̯], [ou̯] and [ui̯] while the rising ones are [ja], [wa], [je], [jo], [ju], [we], [wi] and [wo]. Spanish vowels are more distinct than English ones. For instance, some English letters are considered as silent whereas in Spanish there are no silent letters. This proven in the case of the word ‘know’ in which the ‘n’ is silent. In the Spanish language, there are no silent letters and all the letters in a particular word as in the case of ‘nombre’, which means name in English. This has made it a challenge as what a word means in Spanish might be distorted when changed to English. Use of tones in Spanish is important as it helps stress the meaning of a word. If tones are incorrectly used, the variation would be distorted and the word pronounced differently thus the word loses its original meaning. Proof of the importance of tone and stress in Spanish is evidenced in the case of two particular diphthongs, ‘ie’ and ‘ue.’ These diphthongs are always stressed when used in language and the tone of the individual enabled them to be brought out correctly.

How a vowel sounds is different for both languages. When saying the vowels in Spanish one, has to put some stress in them. This is not like in the English language where the vowels are pronounced the same both in a word and when they are said independently. For instance when saying a word that has ‘a’ in it in Spanish like ‘amor’, the sound is always distinct even when someone is trying not to stress it. In English on the other hand, there is no stress or intonation the letter is the same if it is said as a vowel or in a word such as ‘airplane’. It is notable that the vowel sounds the same. When pronouncing consonants, it is easier as most consonants are the same in both languages. However, some slight differences between the two languages. For one, Spanish consonants are generally softer than the English ones. Thus, when pronouncing a word in English it might sound different in Spanish. For instance in the case of the word ‘jackal’ and ‘Juego’ (toy). The Spanish pronunciation of the consonant ‘j’ is softer while compared to the English version.

In terms of grammar, Spanish has nouns and verbs just like the English language. The verbs describe the aspect in which a person does things and has resulted in other forms of verbs that have been conjugated. Nouns on the other hand are in terms of a two-gender structure and some say appear as numbers. Pronouns will tend to refer to living things, number and sex. I Spanish, nouns are categorized as either male or feminine and they take up ‘el’ or ‘la’ respectively as in the case of ‘el chico’, a boy and ‘la chica’ or a girl. Overall Spanish is an inflected language that obeys both normative rules as well as orthography of the Spanish language.

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