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Do you think something is missing from your Spanish translations?

Charles Eames said it best: The details are not details. They make the product. And yet so many translations are like signs with missing letters: sometimes sad, sometimes unfortunate.

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On punctuation

Every once in a while, not very often, I fall in love with my own punctuation. When I’m making comments on a student manuscript, maybe, I’ll come up with a brilliant, brilliant piece of punctuation. Then I say, “Do you get it?” And they’re so polite, they say, “Yes, you’ve inserted an asterisk.” “No no, but that’s everything, suddenly the whole cosmos opens up around it.” “Yes, Professor Beattie.
Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 209, Ann Beattie

How did we end up writing in a way that sounds like inexpertly translated French?: International Art English (IAE), a hilarious analysis of art writing

IAE has never had a codified grammar; instead, it has evolved by continually incorporating new sources and tactics of sounding foreign, pushing the margins of intelligibility from the standpoint of the English speaker. But one cannot rely on a global readership to feel properly alienated by deviations from the norm.

The IAE of the French press release is almost too perfect: It is written, we can only imagine, by French interns imitating American interns imitating American academics imitating French academics. Scandinavian IAE, on the other hand, tends to be lousy. Presumably its writers are hampered by false confidence—with their complacent non-native fluency in English, they have no ear for IAE.

Can we imagine an art world without IAE? If press releases could not telegraph the seriousness of their subjects, what would they simply say? Without its special language, would art need to submit to the scrutiny of broader audiences and local ones? Would it hold up?

[International Art English - Triple Canopy, via The Morning News]

Richard Mabey on the art of giving species their common names

Common names are a kind of time capsule, a record of the powers of observation and literary inventiveness of ordinary people. They log resemblances, uses, sounds, mythic associations, smells, seasonal appearances, kids’ games, superstitions, habitats. They’re witty, concise, evocative, sometimes even satirical.

The litany of moths whose caterpillars feed on species of willow (aka withy, sallies, saugh, popple, cat’s-tails) reads like a found poem about sensual pleasure: angle shades, autumn green carpet, canary-shouldered thorn, coxcomb prominent, dark dagger, dingy mocha, engrailed, flounced chestnut, pale brinded beauty, ruddy highflyer …

The Guardian

Run, a Verb for Our Frantic Times

It took Peter Gilliver, the O.E.D. lexicographer working on the letter R, more than nine months harnessed to the duties of what Samuel Johnson once called “a harmless drudge” (plus many more months of preparatory research) to work out what he believes are all the meanings of “run.” And though some of the senses and their derivations try him — Why does a dressmaker run up a frock? Why run through a varlet with a sword? How come you run a fence around a field? Why, indeed, run this essay? — Mr. Gilliver has finally calculated that there are for the verb-form alone of “run” no fewer than 645 meanings. A record.

In terms of sheer size, the entry for “run” is half as big again as that for “put,” a word on which Mr. Gilliver also worked some years ago. But more significantly still, “run” is also far bigger than the old chestnut “set,” a word that, says Mr. Gilliver, simply “hasn’t undergone as much development in the 20th and 21st centuries as has ‘run.’ ” full article


When I started my clinical clerkships, I began to hear the verb “expire” more frequently, and gradually it ceased to sound strange. As an intern, I witnessed my first deaths and was responsible for writing “expiration notes” in patients’ charts. Cartons of milk had expiration dates. Coupons expired. I guessed people could too.
Doctors and the ‘D’ Word - On using euphemisms for dying

‘Through the Language Glass’: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages

An interview from the Paris Review about how language influences our thoughts.

Languages differ essentially in what they must convey, not in what they may convey (for in theory, every thought can be expressed in every language). Languages differ in what types of information they force the speakers to mention when they describe the world. (For example, some languages require you to be more specific about gender than English does, while English requires you to be more specific about tense than some other languages. Some require you to be more specific about color differences, and so on.) And it turns out that if your language routinely obliges you to express certain information whenever you open your mouth; it forces you to pay attention to certain types of information and to certain aspects of experience that speakers of other languages may not need to be so attentive to.

Paris Review – Guy Deutscher on Through the Language Glass

“Writing, there is no voice.” Art critic details his loss of language from a brain tumor

Living With A Brain Tumour, Tom Lubbock (The Observer). A moving piece on loss of language.

My experience of the world is not made less by lack of language but is essentially unchanged.

This is curious.

My true exit may be accompanied by no words at all, all gone.

The final thing. The illiterate. The dumb.


Quiet but still something?



My body. My tree.

After that it becomes simply the world.