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False friends in business translation

Here are some words (false friends) to look out for when translating business documentation from/to Spanish:

  • Firstly, the classics actualmente and eventualmente. Actual means current or present, and actualmente means ‘currently’ or ‘at the moment‘; if you want to say ‘actually’, you’ll need realmente or en realidad. Eventualmente means ‘possibly’; for ‘eventually’, you want finalmente or por fin.
  • In most forms of Spanish, comercial (as an adjective) means ‘sales’, but in a more precise sense than English, and un comercial is a ‘sales person’. For ‘acommercial‘ you would have to say un anuncio or una publicidad.
  • Similarly, una advertencia is a ‘warning, piece of advice or reminder’. For ‘advertisment’, use un anuncio or una publicidad.
  • Be careful of fiscal, which means ‘fiscal‘ as an adjective, but as a noun (un fiscal) it refers to a ‘district attorney or public prosecutor‘.
  • Un negocio refers to a ‘business, deal, or transaction’. A ‘negotiation’ is una negociación.
  • A classic error comes from not knowing that, whilst un discusión could refer to a simple ‘discussion‘, it is more commonly used to describe something like a ‘debate, dispute, or argument’.
 A ‘discussion‘ is rendered as unadiscusión or, more formally, as deliberaciones.
  • Compromiso is, coutnerintuitively, an ‘obligation, commitment, promise, or agreement’. ‘Compromise’ as a noun can be expressed as una transacción, una avenencia, unas concesiones recíprocas, el término medio, or la solución intermedia. The verb is comprometer or transigir.
  • Billón is a false friend in the US, where it means ‘trillion’, but perfectly OK in the UK, which thinks of ‘billion‘ in the same way as the Spanish do. A US ‘billion’ would be mil millones.
  • Salario refers to ‘hourly wages’, while un sueldo denotes a ‘monthly or yearlysalary’.

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