- Posted by Stephen Whiteley
- On 19/04/2018
Phrasal verbs are very commonly used in informal English. What’s more, those who use these verbs are not always clear about the meaning of their phrasal verbs. This can pose a challenge to any translation agency or translator. In fact, the impact of these verbs on translation is quite negative because it becomes necessary to translate at least two or three words that form the phrasal verb into another language.
Unique tones and nuances
The fact is that single verbs may have unique tones as well as nuances when used in combination with other words. Phrasal verbs are a verb plus a preposition or another verb and an adverb or even a verb with an adverb plus a preposition. These different combinations are more than just a part of the syntax of sentences because they are also thought to be complete semantic units by themselves. Another way of describing a phrasal verb is by calling it a compound verb or a combination of verb and adverb.
Phrasal verbs are widely used in the English language and their meaning can be entirely different to that of the original verb. A commonly used phrasal verb, to find out, can easily be substituted with a single word like discover or determine. The main reason why people use phrasal verbs is because they do not want to sound pretentious or formal. Let’s get together is an example of a phrasal verb whose meaning is to congregate together. It is a more informal way of saying let’s congregate.
When translating commonly used phrasal verbs from English to Spanish, translators will encounter many difficulties. This is because the phrasal verbs only exist in the English language and this can lead to semantic errors when translating the phrasal verb from English to Spanish.
Spanish translation difficulties
It is common for Spanish translators to mistake the phrasal verb with single-word verbs because their meanings are interrelated. Spanish speaking people who want to translate phrasal verbs from Spanish to English generally avoid using phrasal verbs. It is thus a good idea for translators to list out the most commonly used phrasal verbs and to avoid using these when translating formal documents. When translating phrasal verbs from English to another language, it is important to deal with the phrasal verbs in terms of their context and syntax, and not in isolation.
The Spanish language does not have any phrasal verbs and so when translating from Spanish to another language, translators need to familiarize themselves with the phrasal verbs as used in English. They also need to understand how the meaning of commonly used phrasal verbs can be determined.
Phrasal verbs are not meant to be treated as two parts but are to be treated as a lexical unit. It is not possible to find out the meaning of the phrasal verbs by looking at the verb and adverb individually. When the preposition or adverb is dropped from the phrasal verb, its meaning changes. Thus, if you were to translate the phrasal verb, it is not easy to bring up children you would find the meaning changes as soon as a preposition is dropped. Thus, when you say it is not easy to bring children, the meaning changes radically. Translators need to keep this in mind.