1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Spanish
  4. >
  5. Spanish Cultural References


Spanish Cultural References

I came across this sentence:

"Las modas se caracterizan por ser efímeras, y en algunas ocasiones son cíclicas, aparecen una y otra vez como el Guadiana."

Which translates to,

"Fads are characterized by being short-lived, and are sometimes cyclical, appearing now and then like the Guadiana."

The Guadiana is a river in Spain known for flowing intermittently. Of course, most people living outside of Spain and Portugal wouldn't even know what a guadiana is. What is the best course of action here? Adding a footnote explaining the reference(against the owl's liking)? Or replacing it with an American equivalent (if one even exists)?

August 25, 2012



I aim to translate to the target language in a way that best captures the intent of the author; in a way that the language flows well and is enjoyable to read.

We see from machine translation how terrible 'literal translation' is. Translations require choices, which are sometimes extremely difficult to make; as can be seen with preferences among multiple translations of popular books.

I would not explain the Spanish river, but look to capture the tone of the text with the closest English equivalent. At times, as with many idioms, there is no 'correct' translation, but rather, a 'best effort' intent to bring the author's tone and meaning to the target language.


I like GoodandPlenty's answer . If I were translating , I would leave the "Guardiana " in , and inquisitive people can track down the reference , and those who don't care to do that can perhaps intuit the reference .


I would add 'river' in front of Guardiana, to add a bit of context.


In the French and German course I tend to add some short explanation between brackets. And I also tend to not translate names in those languages, putting the translation between brackets. Keep in mind that we can't make hyperlinks in our translations.


Hmm. What about jokes that only make sense in Spanish like:

>Las tres clases de personas más involucradas en el nacimiento o propagación de una moda o tendencia social son los mavens, los vendedores y los conectores.

>No, no son especies alienígenas de Star Trek o de Babylon 5.


>The three kinds of people who are most involved in the birth or propagation of a fad or social trend are mavens, salesmen, and connectors.

>No, they're not alien species from Star Trek or Babylon 5.

I'm guessing in Spanish, mavens, vendedores, and conectores sound like alien species, as opposed to "salesmen". Unless that's the joke...


I think the joke there is perhaps more that they are considered to be a type of alien species by teenagers and young adults - maven is another word for judge/arbiter/referee or an expert in a particular field , though I have no idea what is meant by 'connectors' - conductors? However, it's hard to say what might be the best way to approach the translation without knowing the context of the rest of the article.


"Las moda se caracterizan por ser efímeras, y en algunas ocasiones son cíclicas, aparecen una y otra vez como el Guadiana."

I think the correct translation would be something like:

Fashions are characterized by being short-lived, and sometimes cyclical, appearing over and over like a river.

The author is saying that fashions don't last long, and are repetitive. He's like mocking and being ironic about it, like not taking fashion seriously.


Or you could say, "like the water in the Guadiana wash" or "wadi"

Learn Spanish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.