Posted by: janecronin | May 5, 2019


“Traducir” means “to translate” which, one way or the other, we are all involved in if we are English speakers living in Spain.  As usual I will look at the grammar of the verb first, before delving into its meaning and uses.  It belongs to a particular group of verbs that make an interesting change to their first person singular form in the present tense.  In other words, “I translate” is “traduzco”.  The rest of the present tense conjugates like a normal “-ir” verb – “traduces, traduce, traducimos, traducís, traducen”.  “Traducir” has a further irregularity in the preterite, or past simple, tense.  One might expect the form to be “traducí” but in fact it is “traduje” (I translated).  The rest of that conjugation follows along the same lines – “tradujiste, tradujo, tradujimos, tradujisteis, tradujeron” (you, he, she, we and they translated).

The two words “traduzco” and “tradujeron” provide the basis for the formation of the subjunctive, which is therefore also odd – “traduzca” (present) and “tradujera” or “tradujese” (imperfect).  From the present subjunctive also comes the “usted” formal command “traduzca” (translate!).  The informal command is “traduce”. There is a group of verbs that all behave in a similar way, which are all “-er” or”-ir” verbs with their root ending in the letter “c” for example: conocer, deducir, parecer and conducir.

As for whatever the word “traducir” actually means, the obvious and most important context is when we change something from one language to another.  This is a much more difficult process, even for people who are fluent in both languages, than most people realise.  The problem with translating is that it cannot be done word by word.  To translate something properly we have to work in concepts rather than words and think about how a concept is actually expressed in another language.  Coming to terms with this is part of the process of language learning.

In terms of the actual job of being a translator – un traductor (masculine) or una traductora (feminine) people often mix this up with the role of an interpreter (un interprete, una interprete).  The difference is that a translator works with the written language and an interpreter is the person you take along with you to the doctor´s and who works with the spoken language.  Of the two jobs, interpreting is by far the most difficult (in my humble opinion) although it does depend on the situation and subject matter and how well the job is done.

The noun from “traducir” is “traducción” (translation).  The only other derivative from “traducir” is the word “traducible” which means “translatable”.  However, in English I think I use the word “untranslatable” more often for a variety of reasons.  My dictionary tells me this is “intraducible” although in everyday speech it’s more usual to hear: “que no se puede traducir” (that cannot be translated).

Finally, we shouldn´t confuse “traducir” with the false friend similar to translate, namely “trasladar”.  “Trasladar” means to move, usually a home or business from one premises to another.

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