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Translating recipes

It seems that in Spanish recipe instructions are in the first person plural format, in other words "We chop and onion and then we add some garlic". This sounds odd in English. Normally recipes are in the second person singular, ie, "Chop the onion and add some garlic." Am I correct in assuming that I should translate in a style that feels right to me, even if it is not the most literal translation?

August 8, 2013



I favor translations that sound good in English.


I translate them the way they should be in English.


As for recipes, keep in mind, that if Duolingo wanted us to do "literal" translations, then there would be no purpose for Duolingo as Google Translate does a really good literal translation. The challenge of translating is to take a sentence in one language and then put it into a different language while maintaining its original meaning. With recipes, I believe, English typically has them in the imperative. So, if Spanish puts a recipe in first person plural, then, you need to change it for the English.

By the way, occasionally, someone will take a translated sentence and return it to the literal translation. We are all learning here. So, even though its frustrating, convert the sentence back and append a comment explaining your rationale.

And, hopefully soon, Duolingo will concoct a FAQ for the immersion section, so that there's less literal translations. (Although I sure don't mind an initial literal translation on an article, you gotta start somewhere.)


I don't even favor the idea that there is a "literal" translation, as though there was one right word in English for each word in the other language and you need an excuse to depart from one-for-one substitution. I think we're translating ideas that come in bigger units than single words. People operating at the single word level do poor translations. They can't see what they're doing to the overall message.


Thanks, Salxandra - you make some very valid points.


Thanks, Viaggiatore & Lyarra

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