When speaking, it’s best not to translate because it slows us down and can cause “blocks”. Let’s consider a written text or when you want to prepare (in advance) what you’re going to say – perhaps something important. You might find yourself trying to build a sentence and asking “¿Cómo se dice [palabra en cuestión] en inglés?”.
Remember: it’s very important to consider the – from beginning to end. Don’t just consider one (or two) words in isolation! and context
In other words, if we want to convey the meaning well, or express ourselves properly, we accept that often we don’t translate literally – but figuratively.
Sometimes, students learning English decide to translate literally – word for word. This is quite common in students who are progressing towards intermediate level. Although this occasionally works OK, it can often produce results which are confusing, humorous, or even ridiculous.
If you translate everything literally, clearly it won’t help you. Automatic translators sometimes produce similar poor results. Use them with care – and always check! With important documents such as your C.V. (curriculum vitae) or a job application, you need good results.
So to our first picture, which shows the sign in context. I hope this helps anyone who doesn’t speakto work out everything the sign says and what the writer really meant:
Unfortunately, the photo is a little blurred. I took it quite quickly with a mobile phone. There’s a second photograph below of the sign, enlarged and with the text repeated – so it should be easier to read!
Not all would understand the lower text. They might understand it if they spoke some Spanish. For example:
- We don’t usually take cars in shops.
Did the writer mean toy/model cars or something?!
- How many shops are we in – one, or many?
- Does the sign refer to something which belongs to the children (plural), or is it an incorrect plural? (A child, two children etc.)
- The verb ‘to contact’ does not need a preposition after it.
- The word ‘personal’ in this context is a false friend, the writer meant “personnel”. However, this would have been better written as “Please contact a member of staff” (note: without the comma after the word ‘Please’).
- Punctuation could be improved … we could go on…
EXERCISE: contact me with what you think the sign should say, to accurately reflect the Spanish. It’s good practice!