What good translation is “for”!
2016/07/23 1 Comment
“Latinos para Trump” read signs at the GOP Convention. Clearly it meant “Latinos for Trump” but it didn’t say that: Spanish para can mean “for” but it’s not the same “for” used to indicate support of a candidate. (An even more unfortunate version of the sign, also seen at the convention, was “Hispanics para Trump” which didn’t even use the Spanish word for “Hispanics”: hispanos.)
The preposition para mainly means “for the purpose of, in order to, to be used by.” Papel para fotocopiadora, “paper for photocopier, photocopy paper”; vegetales para ensaladas, “vegetables for salads, salad greens.”
“Latinos para Trump” says something like “Latinos to be used by Trump.” It should read: Latinos por (or con) Trump.
(We’ll revisit por/para again in the near future.)
The mistranslation unintentionally said some other things, too: “This sign was not made by a Latino” or (more accurately) “was not created by a native Spanish speaker.” Even worse: “We don’t care about Latinos, we just want their votes.”
Poor translation is poison: it undermines your message; makes you look foolish; and sends adverse signals—the worst being, “We don’t care enough to do this right.”
Every time an organization assigns a translation to some employee who happens to (it is believed) “speak Spanish,” the result will almost certainly be unfortunate—and maybe deadly: imagine the mistranslation of a safety warning!
Few of us would let our brother-in-law “who fools around with electrical stuff” do the wiring of our house. Or have the neighbor who once took a CPR course operate on our liver. But, in essence, that’s what’s routinely done with translation (and its spoken cousin, interpreting). These are professional, technical skills requiring training and experience, not something you can do just because you (sort of) know a second language—and not even just from being bilingual.