The Importance of Translating into your Mother Tongue


"Language is culture, and hence I strongly believe that a translation must be focused in the cultural aspects of the target audience rather than simply changing words from one language to another."

As you may know, translating is not simply transferring some texts from one language to another, the knowledge of the culture of both languages and the knowledge of such texts and its target audience play a very important role when it comes to making a good translation. And that’s why it is so important that the translator focuses on translating only into his mother tongue.

Imagine that you already have a website or an ebook in English and you want to expand your business to the Spanish market, to do so, you will need to translate your website into the language of your target audience, and to get the widest possible acceptance, when performing the translation it is very important to bear in mind the culture of the target audience.

Language is inherently linked to the culture of its linguistic community and therefore the way in which a French, Spanish or an English perceive certain things or react to specific situations or stimuli will not be quite the same. If already exist some differences within a same linguistic community, but from different countries as it can be seen between a French speaking from Canada and France, or between an English speaking for UK, US or New Zealand, imagine between different linguistics communities.

A case in which the translator took into account this linguistic culture can be found in the first episode of the 2nd season of “The Big Bang Theory” show, in which Howard and Raj try to find out why Sheldon wants to move out, and Raj asks to Leonard if he ever pronounced the “t” in “often”. Here the Spanish translator had to find an equivalent situation in Spanish, and made reference to a common mistake that many Spanish speakers make, which is to pronounce the letter “ll” /ll/ as if it was an “y” /j/. This situation is called “yeísmo” and only someone with and excellent knowledge of the Spanish culture could know it.

This is why it is so important that a translator performs the translation into his/her native language, because it is not enough to have an excellent knowledge of both languages but also of its culture, and only a native speaker will be able to adapt specific concepts of the culture and find the adequate idiomatic expression in order to avoid literal translations, possible misunderstandings and inaccuracies.

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Katia De Juan

She is an English to Spanish and Catalan translator & copywriter. Traveller and surfer at heart, and fond of photography, graphic design, sociology and linguistics.


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