Spanish Accents and Nacho Libre

Spanish accents are one of the things I most like about studying the Spanish language.

And even though translators don’t worry too much about accents when they translate, understanding the role accents play in language can go a long way to helping us in our translation work.

I started thinking about this the other day when I sat down to re-watch Nacho Libre. I’m not a fan of watching movies more than once but that movie is one of the few exceptions.

The reason I like to watch it over and over again is because Jack Black’s Spanish accent is hilarious. (Now remember that I didn’t say it was perfect, but rather listening to him gets you in the right mood as you’re watching the show.)

So I started thinking how this relates to language and translation in particular. One of the best ways to become fluent in a language (or at least pretend) is by mimicking natives when they speak.

I’m sure a lot of people all ready do this but how many of us translators do this when we translate. What exactly does this mean? Well, let’s go back to the Spanish accents.

There are a lot of people that speak good “standard” Spanish but that have bad accents. At the same time there are those that speak with great accents but don’t speak very standard Spanish. The interesting thing is that in speaking to these two types of individuals, a native speaker will most times prefer speaking to the person with the better accent.

So how does this relate to translation? Well, the tone (or accent) of a translation is almost as important as the “standardness” of a translation.

If you translate something correctly using all the right grammar and structures but don’t match the tone to its intended audience, you will have a subpar translation.

A native speaker reading the translation will be able to tell something isn’t quite right but might not be able to pinpoint the problem. That’s when you know the “accent” of the translation isn’t quite right.

So next time you’re working on a translation, pay special attention to things like word choice to make sure you get that Spanish accent just right.

¡Viva Nacho Libre!

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