There are thousands of words and expressions that, for linguistic or cultural reasons, don’t have an exact equivalent in other languages. When translating, we must use our imagination and our linguistic abilities to incorporate them into the target text in the most natural way possible.
Spanish is the language of fiery passion, of spirited dancing, and delicious chipirones.
Here are some of my favorite Spanish words which have no direct translation to English.
Friolera: this word refers to a person who is constantly cold and will go to extremes to keep themselves nice and warm.
Botellón: I’ve taken part of far too many botellones than I care to mention. This refers to a gathering of people in a public space solely to drink alcohol and socialize. Since underage drinking is very prominent in Spain, we spent our teenage years drinking in our local park. Fond memories!
Morbo: I actually learned this word for the first time when I moved to Barcelona. To have a ‘morbo’ with something is to have a morbid fascination with something.
Puente: every English speaking person who has grown up, or spent considerable time in Spain, uses the word Puente. Nobody has a real word for it in their own language. The ‘puente’, literally ‘bridge’, is when Thursday is a holiday and you take off Friday to bridge the holiday to the weekend, or, likewise, when Tuesday is a holiday and you take off Monday to extend your weekend.
Dar un toque: Calling someone, letting it ring once, then hanging up so the person knows to call you back. Back when I was a kid we used to do this often, you would have ran out of credit on your flip-phone and would give your friend a quick ring, hoping that they in turn had credit to call you back. Most of my allowance went on phone credit and Huesitos back then.
Tocayo: a ‘tocayo’ is a person who has the same name as you. This is a very common occurrence in Spain, and even more so in Catalunya. Seriously, there’s a 70% chance that when you meet a Catalan man, his name is Jordi.
As translators, we must deploy all our skills to translate these expressions without making them sound strange, and making sure that the translated text can be read fluently. That’s why it’s important to always work with professional translators and interpreters who have the tools and knowledge to solve these linguistic challenges.