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  • Writer's pictureMaría Palomares Tarí


Every language has its own ways of conveying particular meanings; words or phrases which are language-specific or culture-specific, or even specific to a particular dialect within a language.

Just look at the English language for example. At a glance, it seems easy to grasp, but if we dive a little deeper, we’ll quickly discover that there are literally thousands of slang words and expressions which can cause real problems when attempting to make content relevant to other cultures.

But what does SLANG stand for? Slang is characterized by its differentiation from the standard, its popularity, its informality and rapid formation of new words and abbreviations, featuring terms that range from funny to just plain weird.

Slang terms are a colorful and vibrant part of any language and they play an important part in allowing people to fully express themselves. As most of our social interactions are now influenced by memes and dynamic social media platforms, tones of new ones come up on the double.

And let’s face it, slang is currently rather a feeling or an act, even an attitude, and most expressions maintain a much greater emotional tension than ordinary language does. Take the word mood for example (used to express something that is relatable):

Ugh! I wish I was in Bora Bora right now.


These colloquialisms make perfect sense to those using them in their native language – in fact, learning how to use them enables you to grasp underlying aspects of a culture as well -- but they can pose real difficulties for anyone trying to translate them into another language.

The challenge of translating slang

Slang is relative; what one person or age group regards as slang in one situation can be perceived differently by others in a different situation. Usually these terms imply wit, humor, imagination, creativity and spontaneity; or they may require metaphors and figurative and expressive tools. And most importantly, they are part of a specific culture.

For that reason, an essential part of being a good (and professional) translator is having an excellent grasp over the source language and the target language so as to be flexible if any slang terms are encountered in the translation process.

As common as they are, they are one of the hardest parts of text for a translator or interpreter to translate due to their varied and context-reliant use. The word ‘cool’, for example, is used in conversation by English speakers in agreement with others or to convey awe. In Spanish, for instance, there are several words that may convey similar, but they’re not used in Spanish dialogue to the extent that English speakers use ‘cool’.

That’s why professional translators or interpreters can make a huge difference: they are trained to find a way to convey what the writer or speaker intended without altering the context and semantics of the original message. They are basically trained to find the best solution possible while being accurate.

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