Spanish Translation Common Mistakes

  1. The word “día” is masculine.
    Although it ends with the letter a, “día” is a masculine noun, thus, requiring the use of masculine articles and adjectives – el día (not la día) – buenos días (not buenas días) — el otro día (not la otra día).
  2. Don’t translate word for word.
    Mistakes are often made when one tries to translate word-for-word.
  3. Use “ser” to tell where an event is taking place.
    “Estar” is always used to denote location, but when it comes to events, “ser” is always used to tell where an event is taking place.
  4. “Aquí” and “acá” are not interchangeable.
    “Aquí” and “acá” both refer to a location that is close to the speaker, but “Acá” is used with verbs of motion, while “aquí” is used in other instances.
  5. Don’t be fooled by false cognates! Lots of Spanish words look like English words, but looks can be deceiving! For example: The word “asistir” doesn’t mean “to assist,” it means “to attend.”
  6. Don’t overuse “yo.”
    Since English requires a noun or pronoun be used for the subject of the sentence, it’s common to think that the same is true in Spanish. Avoid using “yo” as the subject of a sentence, except for emphasis: “Ella quiere ir al cine pero yo no quiero.” (She wants to go to the movies but I don’t.)
  7. Misuse of “American.”
    In the United States, it is common for one to refer to himself as an “American,” but Spanish speaking people consider anyone from North or South America to be an “americano”.
  8. Use present tense for the near future. It is common to use the present tense to indicate something that will happen in the future, especially the very near future when speaking in Spanish.
  9. Don’t confuse “date.”
    “Fecha” is used for “date” as in “What’s the date?”. “Cita” is used for “date” as in meeting someone.
  10. Don’t confuse “time.”
    “Vez” is used when referring to an “occasion.” “Hora” is clock time. “Tiempo” is used in most other instances.

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Elsa Jimenez is a native Spanish speaker who was born and raised in a Hispanic country. She is an accomplished lawyer and translator who has been living and working in the U.S. for many years and is also a member of the American Translators Association.

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