Saturday, May 8, 2010

How often does it happen that you encounter a saying in your mother tongue and wonder how to translate it and capture the core. I sometimes make my own just for the fun of it. I like to translate the Dutch idiom “Open deuren intrappen”, which means “to say the obvious”, to “kicking in open doors” and rarely I get the sense that people know what I am trying to say. Many translators are looking for the book with the right translations for their sayings, phrases, word combinations or idioms. And now there is an excellent book that covers this vast landscape of everyday expressions, at least for the Spanish speaking among us. It is the Ultimate Spanish Phrase Finder by Whit Wirsing. 75,000 Phrases, Idioms and Word Combinations from English into Spanish and vice versa. It is an absolute jewel of a book. But no book can cover every idiom and I have found several common sayings in both the Dictionary of Proverbs by Delfín Carbonell Basset and the 2001 Spanish and English Idioms by Eugene Savaiano and Lynn Winget that did not make it Whit Wirsing’s book. I when I look at Proverbs, Idioms and Expressions: A Guide for Interpreters and Translators by Leonor Valderrama de Sillers, I find the same idioms with a different translation.

Related and also very useful tools are books that help us out with word combinations. An excellent example is the English BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English a guide to collocations and grammar, now in its third edition. It teaches the reader a.o. how to combine words with words to form phrases and this book will give you plenty of examples that can serve as models for your own use of English. The book comes highly recommended by many. Two very good and extensive books on this subject in the Spanish language are the Redes, a combinatory dictionary of contemporary Spanish, and the smaller version Diccionario combinatorio práctico del español contemporáneo. Las palabras en su contexto. For those interested, these books can give you hours of reading pleasure while strengthening your knowledge of the language.

1 comment:

  1. With respect to word combination, one of the most helpful dictionaries I've owned is the "Oxford Collocations Dictionary for Students of English". I also own the BBI Dictionary, but when I bought the Oxford Collocations it became my first choice ;-)