Language is a fascinating reflection of culture, and at times, certain concepts or experiences can be challenging to convey in other languages. This is where ‘loanwords’ come to the rescue, acting as bridges between cultures and enriching languages with unique expressions. Spanish, with its extensive history of cultural exchanges, has absorbed many loanwords from Arabic, English and South American indigenous languages to name but a few. In this blog, we will explore the phenomenon of loanwords, using the examples of three uniquely Spanish words with cultural significance that often lack a direct translation and how they could be translated or absorbed into other languages.
Puente: Building Bridges between Holidays
When there are only one or two days between a holiday and the weekend, or another holiday, the Spanish refer to it as a “puente“, the direct translation being “bridge”. This concept captures the desire to extend the holiday period and make the most of the time off. In other languages, such as English, there is no specific term for this phenomenon. Professional translators may opt for explanations like “extended weekend,” “long weekend,” or “holiday bridge” to convey the same concept in the target language. However, as cultures intermingle, loanwords like “puente” could be adopted into another language to express the same idea, acknowledging its significance and cultural context.
Sobremesa: A Celebration of Connection
Derived from the words “sobre” (over) and “mesa” (table), “sobremesa” encompasses the joy of lingering at the table after a meal, engaging in conversation, and enjoying each other’s company. It represents the importance placed on socialising and forming meaningful connections in Spanish culture. Translating such a concept requires more than a direct translation; it demands an understanding of the cultural nuances surrounding communal dining experiences. Translators may opt for cultural localisation, striving to retain the essence of the word while adapting it to the target language, allowing readers to grasp the concept and appreciate its significance.
Merienda: Delight in the Afternoon
The word “merienda” describes a light meal or snack typically taken in the late afternoon, bridging the gap between lunch and dinner. However, it encompasses more than a simple snack; it embodies a cherished cultural tradition, often accompanied by tea, coffee or hot chocolate. When translating “merienda,” translators may face the challenge of finding an equivalent term that captures the cultural richness associated with this tradition. They may resort to loanword adoption, directly incorporating “merienda” into the target language, while providing contextual explanations where necessary.
Professional translators play a vital role in accurately conveying these linguistic treasures, employing techniques such as cultural localisation and loanword adoption. Through their skillful work, they facilitate cross-cultural understanding, preserve cultural richness, and contribute to the vibrant evolution of languages. At Eagle Language Service, we are passionate about language and committed to providing high-quality translation services that capture the essence of the language and cultural expressions, ensuring effective communication across diverse linguistic mediums.