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May 6, 2019 6:39 AM   Subscribe

Which of the translations inside is the best? Please help me pick a Spanish translator for my children's book based on their translations of the same passage.

I wrote a children's book, in English, for a Argentine friend's son, who speaks Spanish and is learning English. I want to have a Spanish translation side-by-side with the English in the book, so I asked a bunch of translators to translate a passage for a fee, and I will select the best/funniest one to translate the whole book (for a larger fee). But I don't speak Spanish! That's where you come in.

The story is of a young soccer player (played by my friend's son) who wakes up with no legs, and gets them back with the help of a wizard (played by Jorge Luis Borges). Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, among others, also play a role.

Here's the passage in English:
Bautista went to the doctor's office, where he found the good man asleep under his desk.

"Doctor --" Baustista began.

"You're fine, you're fine, get on the field. What do you think they pay you for?" growled the doctor, opening one eye.

"I know!" Bautista said, "But coach won't let me play. I'm just wondering maybe you could take a look below my knees, as there doesn't seem to be anything there anymore..."

"You crybabies don't know the meaning of sport. Would Kempes let a little thing like this stop him playing? Would Sivori? Would Rattin? You aren't fit to fill their shoes," shrieked the doctor, thoroughly roused now. "Not that you fill any shoes now, but that is not the point! You -- "

It was clear that the doctor could not help him. But who could?

The doctor was still going on. "-- Hothouse flowers! You cry for the doctor if you get a hangnail or a flea bite! Do they pay you to sit on your --"

The flea! Maybe his old friend would know what to do.
The translators are all Argentines, which I hoped would help to localize the idioms as much as possible, and I asked for a slangy, informal translation. Which of these Spanish translations is the best/most idiomatic/funniest? Which one is second-place? And WHY? Please help a non-Spanish speaker understand your choices.

posted by pH Indicating Socks to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You're amazing.

Translation A:
"pensás" is particularly Argentine way of conjugating a verb, but somehow it sounds odd used this way.
"debaho de las rodillas" is odd. That means more like "underneath my knees" not "below the knee".
"inconveniente" this is wrong.

Translation B:

Overall I really like this one. It reads like it was translated by a human. Translation A looks like google translate with some hand corrections.

“levántate” You know that conjugation used in A that I said was very argentine. It should absolutely be used here, where the imperative is.

“los llorones” should be just “llorones” Los sounds weird.

“Sos” is very Argentine.

Ok, maybe I spoke too soon...this right here “Capaz su viejo amigo sabe qué hacer.” looks very google translate without corrections.

Translation C:
This is generally very good, but not very Argentine.

Translation D:
Though still not very Argentine, this is the best thus far. This translator translated the spirit and tone of your book rather than just a very literal translation. Note: The flea is female here. It was male in the others. Not sure what your intent is, but since “Friend” is not gendered in english but is in Spanish, you should clarify with whatever translator you use.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:59 AM on May 6 [6 favorites]

Oh, weird, I just noticed the rest of myr esponse didn't paste in...

Translation E:
This is both nicely done and Argentine. It doesn’t have the style of D but it does have more of an Argentine feel.

Translation F:
This is bad and includes a homophobic slur.

Translation G:
Fine, but no style.

Translation H:
Another fine translation but no style.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:37 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]

Professional Spanish (albeit the European kind) here. Fully agree that this is an amazing present. In a bit of a rush so I can't dive into the details too much, but here are my two cents based on a quick read of all the samples.

A useful shorthand for spotting a decent Spanish translator is their use of punctuation. I'd rule out any translators who fail to use opening exclamation and question marks (¡ and ¿) or misplace their accented vowels — besides being incorrect, that's a hallmark of an amateur translator who simply isn't invested in doing their job properly. On those grounds alone, I'd rule out samples A, B and C. Predictably, those translators are also not very good in a number of other levels (style, etc).

I'd also rule out F because of the homophobic slur that If only I had a penguin... already pointed out (the word in question being "maricones", the Spanish equivalent of "faggots"). That's simply not acceptable language in a children's book, and I'd be terrified of any translator deciding to take such liberties with the text.

Of the others, I liked G best. Sounds pretty Argentine to me, I liked the style and I found the "fill their shoes" idiom particularly well handled. My second choice would be somewhat of a tie between D and E; both sound fine to me but a bit less polished.

There go my two pesos. Note that I am a native Spanish speaker, but not Argentinean, so my perception of adequate children's book style for Argentina may be a bit off.
posted by doctorpiorno at 12:21 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]

Huh, you know, on rereading G, I'm going to agree with doctorpiorno, too. With E in second place and D in third.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:28 PM on May 6

Holy crap!

Somebody put "faggot" in my children's book?! Oh no. No, no, no.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 12:54 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]

I work in a field where multiple translations across dozens of languages are required and I can tell you from a lot of experience that many professional translators will cheat (use google, blindly copy from other sources, etc). You must employ a 3rd party (or 2!) to review the translation after it is complete. Especially in light of the slur mentioned. Of course you'll have your Argentine friend pre-read it, but I still would have wanted it vetted by a 3rd party first. This is pretty awesome, btw.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 5:54 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]

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