Estimado Señor @NewtGringrich: Your Spanish Translations Are Awful

Jan 3, 2012
12:13 pm

So with the Iowa caucus tonight, GOP candidate New Gingrich and his campaign are reaching out to Latinos in Iowa, who constitute about 5% of the state's total population. On January 2, the Newt con Nosotros email sent out a bilingual email to its database. While we applaud the Gingrich campaign for trying to reach voters in both English and Spanish, we would like to offer Newt a little advice: GET A BETTER TRANSLATOR IN SPANISH. The clunkiness of the Spanish text and its literal voice only confirm that the Gingrich campaign should benefit from actually hiring native Spanish speakers who can actually WRITE in Spanish.

The translation, to put it mildly, reads like a bad Google Translate. If Newt were in an college-level Spanish class, we would give him a solid C-. The result is an email that sounds unnatural and forced in Spanish. Here is the email below, without comments in red.

There is nothing more awful than reading a literal Spanish translation that makes you cringe as you read it. Communication in Spanish is an editorial skill, and bad translation only kills your intent and makes most Spanish speakers we know shake their heads.


Estamos a unas horas de la votación en Iowa y Newt le necesita! (the "leísmo" is so archaic and so continental Spanish, it ia wrong. And the last time we checked, Spanish exclamations start with an inverted exclamation point)

Es importante que el mensaje de Newt llegue a todos los ciudadanos de Iowa. La comunidad hispana es importante para el éxito de esta campaña y usted puede marcar la diferencia realizando llamadas y empujando a los ciudadanos de Iowa a votar el 3 de enero. (Newt is literally telling Latino voters in Iowa to physically push their fellow citizens. That could get dangerous. Does he have the health insurance to cover that? Also phrases like "realizando llamadas" just sound clunky. Keep it simple, Newt: "haciendo llamadas" is a better choice.)

Lo mejor es que usted puede ser parte importante de esto desde la comodidad de su propia casa. (Clunky, literal and hard to understand. It's like they inserted the English into an automatic translation machine and clicked on SUBMIT.)

Siga estas instrucciones simples por favor: ("Simples" can mean idiotic like a simpleton. "Sencillas" is a better choice here.)

1.       Vaya a y cree su cuenta. ("Crear" connotes creation. Newt could have used clearer words like "iniciar," "establecer," even "abrir" works here!)


2.        Una vez creada la cuenta vaya a 
(Why why why use the formation, it reeks of literal translation.)

3.       Eso le llevará a la página de llamadas telefónicas. Seleccione español o inglés. (Starting a phrase like this with "Eso" is too literal.)


4.       Tome nota de los e-mails de personas que quieran ayudar. (It's ok to not use Anglicisms like "e-mails," there is no real reason to not use "direcciones electrónicas" or something clearer and in Spanish.)

5.       Use Notes si las personas le dicen en qué quieren ayudar. (Ah, yes the whole issue that we give you instructions in Spanish but we use tabs in English. Explain that more. Also, the whole "en qué" construction is clunky as well.)


6.       Por favor, consiga cuantos más posibles voluntarios, familiares y amigos!

Sólo unos minutos de su día pueden marcar una gran diferencia en Iowa. Newt quiere que estemos con él y no para él a fin de devolver a este país a la senda correcta. 

Feliz Año Nuevo a todos. Gracias por su ayuda. Juntos podemos reconstruir los Estados Unidos que amamos. 

(Another bad use of Spanish punctuation and the whole "cuántos más posible" phrase is another bad literal example. Second sentence reads like an English sentence, and what does the third sentence mean in Spanish? Semantically it is awful. And the last sentence is even more literal and even more clunky)