Posted by: janecronin | August 30, 2011

English/Spanish translation – is it good, or bad, to be ambitious?

Some of the trickiest “false friends” are adjectives which describe people’s characters.  There are many of them that nearly mean the same thing, but not quite.  A good example are the words “ambitious” versus “amibicioso”.

In Spanish “ambicioso” has a general sense of material ambition, more akin to the idea of acquisitiveness.  A person who is “ambiciosa” is someone who wants a bigger house, a better paid job and more material possessions.   Therefore, in many people’s minds the word has a negative connotation.

This materialistic element is included in the English idea of “ambitious”, but more generally in the English speaking world to be amibitious is regarded as a positive quality – a desire to better oneself, to get somewhere in life, to have motivation and commitment.  

That’s the interesting thing about “false friends” – they can be very subtle, and they can create subtle misunderstandings!

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