Spanish and Poetry: What We Lose By Translations

Spanish poems are some of the most beautiful ones in the world; at least, in my opinion they are. But how are they so lovely? And sometimes the words don’t make sense or rhyme; why’s that? I’m going to explain all that.

Las palabras en español, or ‘Words in Spanish’ for you non-bi-lingual people out there, are just different. For example, you probably know that hola, hello, is pretty different. You probably know several words, like burro, burrito, perro, gato, de, etc, but for this example we need something different…

How about vosotros?

Si, ‘vosotros’ es un bueno idea.

Yeah, vosotros is a good idea.

First of all, it means ‘you’, in the plural sense, like y’all. That said, vosotros is not at all like you…the word, that is. They don’t even rhyme.

Well, that’s the reason.  In Spanish, words rhyme more easily than in English. How about this example–

Soy canta/tú baila/y ella canta/y los ellos/bailamos!

Try singing it to a tune of da-da DA! da-da DA! The phrase means, in English, “I sing, you dance, and she sings. And they dance.” Now, are you getting it? Both of those are different, and the Spanish one sounds more fit to the rhythm.

Now, let’s move on to the next point. When a child is learning a language for the first time, they learn the meaning, not simply the word. Let’s say the baby’s learning the word apple. First he sees the apple, and his little brain captures the thing and ‘files’ it. Next, when his mommy or daddy says the word, the brain takes that, too, and files it with the image. Now the baby will eventually build up the information until he learns, without a doubt, that the sound ah-pull is distinct towards that object. (So when you learn a language, try to think of what the word means, not what it is in English). Therefore, a word in Spanish usually has a more distinct meaning than the corresponding word in English. Each country, like evolution in animals, made a different sound to mean certain objects. In Spain or Mexico, a baby would learn that this hard red thing is a manzana.  This means that two homophones in English are not alike in Spanish, like see (mira) and sea (oceano).

Overall, one word in Spanish can have a stronger meaning than in English. The meter can be correct in Spanish, and the rhyme can be exact, too. But translation is never exact.  A simple verb is pretty straightforward, but an adjective…the translation varies depending on the translator. So if you want to read poems in what is probably the most romantic language in the world in the original meter and rhyme, learn a bit of Spanish and give it a shot. What harm can it do to learn the second most common language in the world?



One thought on “Spanish and Poetry: What We Lose By Translations

  1. This caught my eye on the featured poetry page. I started learning Spanish last year and I love the language. Haven’t read any poems in Spanish yet but I’ve started watching movies and listening to music… Pans labyrinth was poetically beautiful to me… I’d love to write a Spanish poem but my brain doesn’t rhyme in español at all! 😦


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