Dare to Read

December 3, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey. A Title Lost in Translation

Filed under: On Traslation — carmenferreiroesteban @ 3:27 am
Tags: ,

by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Cincuenta sombras de Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey)

Fifty Shades of Grey has been a commercial success in Spain and I’m sure nobody, but me, cares that its title has been mistranslated.

Yet this bothers me.

Being a writer I know how much work goes into finding that perfect title. Being a translator I know how difficult it is to translate not only the words but also the meaning of those words. And I know that in this case, in the Spanish version, the meaning has been lost.

Even though I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m aware that Grey is this incredibly handsome, filthy rich tycoon with a penchant for quirky love making. He is the brooding hero, the irresistible ‘bad’ boy. But for all his defects he is not beyond redemption because his act hides a hurt and troubled soul. Thus the fifty shades the title mentions. Fifty shades of grey as in “it’s not black and white.”

In this context “Shades” means “Nuances” or “range”. In Spanish that would be “matices”.

In English “shade” also mean “area of darkness”. As in “in the shade of a tree.” This kind of “shade” in Spanish is “sombra” and “sombra” is the word the translator wrongly chose. As “Sombra” also means “shadow” in Spanish, the Spanish title translates back to English as: Fifty Shadows of Grey. Not exactly the same, is it?

IMHO, Fifty Shades of Grey should be called in Spanish, Cincuenta matices de Grey.

But even then the translation would not convey the complete meaning of the English title because “Grey” is a name and also a color. We could translate the color to “gris” but then Mr. Grey would have to be Mr. Gris. So the equivalent in English of the Spanish translation would be: Fifty Shadows of Gris.

Would an American know what this means? I don’t think so. Nor do Spanish-speaking people understand the meaning behind the Spanish title, Cincuenta sombras de Grey. That didn’t stop them from buying the book.

But as a translator and writer it bothers me.

August 3, 2012

Write, Edit, Publish

Filed under: Editing,On Traslation,On Writing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 11:27 am
Tags: , ,


by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban




I haven’t been blogging lately for several reasons.

The main one being that I was in Spain for two weeks. As I don’t go back to my country often, when I go there I immerse myself completely in the present moment so much so that those parts of my brain that do not relate to my Spanish experience are blocked. Writing a blog was not a possibility as even my English became rusty.

That’s why, for the last week, I posted pictures only. Pictures of a superbly fancy New York. A fancy world I only inhabit in my dreams.

In the meantime, in the real world, I have decided to revamp my life.

If I was mainly a writer for the last few years, now my translation work will take priority. Plus I have added another facet to my business: Editing.

I have been a translator for over ten years and I like it very much because it allows me to use both my background as a Biologist and my proficiency in Spanish and English.

For the last twelve years I have also helped other writers to develop their stories as a critique partner. It’s a work I love because I love the plotting part of writing best. That’s why I have decided to expand this aspect of my work and offer my services through my website WriteEditPublish (http://www.writeeditpublish.com/).


If you want to explain technical content to a lay audience…
If you need help writing, revising or editing your manuscript…
If you want to create a Spanish version of your work…

Please stop by.

And remember…

Because I am a writer, too, I’m deeply aware of the love, time and energy you have invested in your manuscript and promise to treat it with the utmost respect.

April 26, 2012

My Adventures on Translation : Music and Words

Filed under: Becquer,On Traslation — carmenferreiroesteban @ 3:48 pm
Tags: , , ,


by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban




Last week after finishing my post, My adventures on Translation : Bécquer Eternal / Bécquer Eterno, where I talked about how a literary translation differs from a technical one, serendipity, that most gracious sister of chance, brought me to the following sentence while reading Robert Greenberg’s How to Listen to Great Music:

“Broadly defined, music is sound in time (…) Far beyond spoken language—which, with its sounds in time, might rightly be considered a low-end sort of music—music is a universal language.”

This struck me because it was exactly what I had been trying to convey in my post.

If language is as Mr. Greenberg so nicely puts “sounds in time” and “a low-end sort of music”, it makes perfect sense that to translate a sentence from English into Spanish word by word will not work in a literary/lyrical text because the length and sounds of the words that represent the same concept in English or Spanish are different. Thus “the sounds in time” the translation delivers in the other language will not “sing”.

To make them sing, the translator must find, in the other language not only words that translate the meaning, but words that translate the music. And that is quite a difficult task.

As an example of how words are indeed a form of music, I invite you to listen to this traditional song that fits perfectly the words of Bécquer’s Rima XXV.

Please don’t feel discouraged if you don’t speak Spanish because music, as Robert Greenberg tells us above, is “a universal language.”


March 20, 2012

Never before published Rhymes by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer : Bécquer as Translator

Filed under: Becquer,On Traslation — carmenferreiroesteban @ 5:19 am
Tags: , , ,

Ciprés alto y airoso,

flor de corola oscura,

joven de ojos más negros

que la noche sin luna.

¿Ves ese vellón blanco

que leve el aire empuja?

Así pasan los días

para no volver nunca.

The Spanish publishing house, Reino de Cordelia, published in 2010 two stories, Abdallah, and Aziz y Aziza, written in French by Édouard Laboulaye, translated into Spanish by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, and illustrated by Bécquer’s brother Valeriano.

Because I am both a writer and a translator, I appreciate the difficulty intrinsic to a literary translation.

Technical translators must act as mirrors. They must “invert” (pour) the text into the other language while maintaining its meaning and the integrity of its sentences and structures.

The mission of the translator of a literary work is more complex. The one of the translator of a poem, near impossible. He/she must keep not only the meaning, but also the rhythm, assonance and alliteration of the original verses. In a few, perfect words, the translator must convey to us the story and, at the same time, touch our heart by provoking in us a visceral and mystique reaction that will transform us.

In his translation of the twelve rhymes included in these two novels, Bécquer passes the test with flying colors. The poems interspaced among the prose touched my heart as Bécquer’s own did, so long ago, when I read them for the first time, as a teenager, back in Spain.

Out of respect for the master, I won’t translate the poem into English. But, if you ever considered learning Spanish, reading Bécquer’s poems in his native language, could be as good an incentive as any. For I promise, they’re well worth the effort.

 Rimas inéditas de Bécquer: Bécquer traductor

La editorial Reino de Cordelia publicó en el 2010 dos novelas cortas, Abdallah, y Aziz y Aziza, escritas en francés por Édouard Laboulaye, traducidas al castellano por Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, y con ilustraciones de su hermano Valeriano.

Porque soy escritora y traductora aprecio por partida doble la dificultad intrínseca a una traducción literaria.

Un traductor técnico ha de ser como un espejo. Debe “invertir” (verter) el texto al otro idioma manteniendo su significado y la integridad de sus frases y estructuras.

La misión de un traductor de una obra literaria es más compleja. La de un traductor de poemas, casi imposible, pues ha de conservar no solo el sentido sino también el ritmo, la asonancia y la aliteración del texto original. En breves, perfectas palabras, el traductor nos han de transmitir la historia y, al mismo tiempo, provocar en nosotros una reacción visceral y mística que nos transforme.

En su traducción de las doce rimas incluidas en estas dos novelas, Bécquer pasa la prueba con nota alta. Los versos que salpican la prosa me conmovieron como los suyos propios hicieron, hace ya tanto tiempo, cuando los leí por primera vez durante mi mocedad en España.

Esperando que la editorial disculpe mi atrevimiento, he reproducido más arriba uno de ellos como ejemplo.