Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Words with several transaltions...

It seems to me, from my decidely amateur point of view, that English and Spanish approach new "items" differently. In English the tendency is to make existing words do. For instance, "drive" once referred to using a team of horses, oxen, mules, or whatever - whether one was driving them when hitched to a plow or wagon or buggy or whatever. When cars came along, the same term attached - one "drives" a car just as one "drives" a wagon. In colloquial American English you can even speak of "driving" a ship or an airplane. We speak of "driving a stake" into the ground or "driving someone away."

Spanish, on the other hand, seems to me to tend toward creating new words for new things. There are multiple verbs meaning "to be." There's more than one word corresponding to the English "to know." And returning to the example above, there are three separate verbs for driving a car, driving a stake, and driving someone away.

About the only exception I can think of to this Spanish tendency is esperar, which translates two separate English verbs - "to wait" and "to hope." :)

- Robert

Hi Robert,

I somewhat agree with you. It's true that English seems to recycle words. There are lots of old words with new meanings that must be updated in the dictionary. It's also true that Spanish doesn't recycle words as much as English does. It does recycles some words (specially related to technology)... But I guess, most of them are American influence.

As for the verb "to be", it's true there are various Spanish translations for this verb. However, the Spanish is not the only language with this phenomenon. Portuguese, for one, also translates verb "to be" as ser and estar. French doesn't separate this two verbs, they're both "être", but it also uses the constructions J'ai 25 ans (Tengo 25 años instead of "I am 25 years old"), Il faut chaud (hace calor instead of It's hot), "Comment-allez-vous? (¿Cómo te va? instead of "How are you?") or J'ai faim (Tengo hambre instead of "I'm hungry"). This are the two languages I know beside Spanish.

Now, there are various words that are translated as different English verbs.
"Esperar" is just one of many. For example:
  • The Spanish preposition en splits into "in", "at", and "on" in English.
  • The Spanish preposition entre splits into "among", and "between" in English.
  • The Spanish preposition por splits into "by", "for", and "through" in English.
  • The Spanish verb ganar splits into "win", "earn", and "beat".
  • The Spanish verb perder splits into "lose", "miss", and "waste".
  • The Spanish verb tirar can be translated as "to throw", "to pull", and "to print".
  • The Spanish verb tener can be translted as "to have", "to hold", "to host"...
  • And so on!

So I would say, there are many English words that splits into different Spanish words - and vice versa!

- Karin

No comments: