Educación: education and upbringing

Enlace para español/Link here for Spanish

Dear reader,

Last week, we saw how the English expression “Congratulations!” is separated by Spanish into “Felicitaciones!” for a success vs. “¡Felicidades!” on life passages (marriage, birth of a child, New Year).

Similarly, Spanish ser and estar distinguish essence (Es mi hija, She is my daughter) from state  (Está ansiosa por algo, She is anxious about something); English has only “to be”. You “know” 3×3=9 and you “know” someone: Spanish saber and conocer, respectively. A “fish” is pez in the water but pescado on your plate.

Los dos significados de "educación" en español. La foto de la izquierda, de autor desconocido, pertenece al Instituto Nacional de Estudios Históricos de las Revoluciones Mexicanas (; la de la derecha, de procedencia desconocida. Ambas parecieran ser de la década de 1950.

In Spanish, educación can mean two things, represented by the photographs above. English “education” only pertains to the left side. Photo on left, photographer unknown, from Instituto Nacional de Estudios Históricos de las Revoluciones Mexicanas (; photo on right, origin unknown. Both appear to be from the 1950’s.

But it isn’t always the language of Cervantes that makes the finer distinctions; in other cases, it’s Shakespeare’s that does so.

Take Spanish educación.  Like English “education”., it can mean formal study. But it’s also what parents strive to inculcate in their children—in surface matters (saying “thank you” and “please”) and deeper ones (respect, gratitude, kindness).  Manners and values: what English expresses by the word “upbringing” or, more popularly, “raising”.

To be called maleducado (literally: badly educated) is to be thought ill-mannered, disrespectful, selfish, or vulgar.  

This second meaning of educación is probably the more important one in Spanish.  To hear the expression “un hombre educado” (literally, an educated man) is chiefly to think of manners, values, character.

“Education starts in the home” is a widely shared view these days. In some ways, we can say that the Spanish word educación already contains this idea.

¡Buenas palabras!


Copyright ©2013 Pablo J. Davis. All Rights Reserved. This essay was originally written for the January 13, 2013 edition of La Prensa Latina (Memphis, Tennessee), as part of the weekly bilingual column Mysteries & Enigmas of Translation/Misterios y Enigmas de la Traducción.

Enlace para español/Link here for Spanish


About Pablo Julián Davis
Pablo Julián Davis, PhD, ATA Certified Translator (Engl>Span) and Supreme Court of Tennessee Certified Interpreter (EnglSpan), offers world-class Spanish/English language services including translation, interpreting, copywriting, and editing in both languages. His specialties are legal, business, medical, and humanities/education; he has wide experience in other fields as well. Also offered: interactive and transformative cultural-awareness training for companies, non-profits, communities, government agencies, institutions of faith, and other audiences. (See just a small sampling of testimonials from happy and satisfied clients: The ability to move effectively from language to language - which necessarily also means moving between cultures - has likely never been at a greater premium than it is in today's world. That ability is what we mean by Interfluency TM.

One Response to Educación: education and upbringing

  1. Pingback: Dos tipos de educación « Interfluency: Translation+Culture

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