Web Translation Projects/English-Spanish, Spanish-English Translation


This page is created for a Web Translation Project course held by the Institute of British and American Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland.

English language and Spanish language are commonly assumed to share many similarities, however, English-Spanish and Spanish-English translation is challenging. The two languages have a common parent-tongue, many cognates, interlingual homographs; nevertheless, the translation poses some difficulties. The project lists some of the most common difficulties involved in the translation between English and Spanish. Later, it briefly describes English and Spanish language etymologies, in order to demonstrate the differences and similarities between the origins of the aforementioned languages. Foreign language influences is also a vital point of the project, since it presents some common language ancestors of English and Spanish, with Latin as their common parent-tongue.

The difficulties involved in English-Spanish and Spanish-English translationEdit

According to the linguistic work ‘Spanish Language Influences on Written English’ by Betty Rizzo and Santiago Villfane[1], there are some errors in English language caused by Spanish interference. Some of the difficulties in translating English to Spanish and Spanish to English are related to the fact that:

-        in Spanish, the combined article and adjective can be normalized, whereas it is not the case in English,

-        refinement has no equivalent in Spanish, so Spanish-speaking people sometimes omit e.g. letter n on the indefinite article before a word beginning with a vowel sound,

-        in contrary to English, the double negative form is permissible in Spanish,

-        English verbs may take as a compliment either the infinitive or the gerund, while almost all Spanish verbs must take the infinitive,

-        an adjective is generally located after a noun in the Spanish language, which is not the case in English,

-        Spanish does not involve any one-to-one correspondence as far as the use of tenses is concerned,

-        in Spanish, there is often no need to use personal pronouns, because the verb tenses alter with the subject, which is not the case in English,

-        Spanish language has more extensive lexis - a research[2] shows that Spanish translations are about 30% longer than their original English source text,

-        both languages have many cultural nuances unique to their own language,

-        the languages share many bilingual homophones (so-called false friends),

-        Spanish is a two-gender language, which is not the case in English,

-        English basically has 3 main types of verbs – the past tense, the past participle, and the infinitive. The other types only add the same auxiliary verbs. However, in Spanish, there are 15 types of each of the verbs, along with the gerund and past participle. Within these 15 types, the verb has 6 styles for indicating who is the originator or speaker of the action (declension).

English language etymologyEdit

English is a West Germanic language first spoken in early medieval England. English is most closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, while its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Old Norse (a North Germanic language), as well as Latin and French[3].

English has developed over the course of more than 1,400 years. The earliest forms of English, a group of West Germanic (Ingvaeonic) dialects brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the 5th century, are collectively called Old English. Middle English began in the late 11th century with the Norman conquest of England; this was a period in which English was influenced by Old French, in particular through its Old Norman dialect[4]. Early Modern English began in the late 15th century with the introduction of the printing press to London, the printing of the King James Bible, and the start of the Great Vowel Shift[5].

Modern English has been spreading around the world since the 17th century by the worldwide influence of the British Empire. English has become the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions and professional contexts such as science, navigation, and law. Modern English grammar is the result of a gradual change from a typical Indo-European dependent marking pattern, with rich inflectional morphology and relatively free word order, to a mostly analytic pattern with little inflection, a fairly fixed subject–verb–object word order, and a complex syntax[6].

This is a color-coded diagram to indicate the percentage of English speakers of the countries and dependencies. very dark green 80-100%, dark green 60-80%, regular green 40-60%, light green 20-40%, very light green 0.1-20%

Geographical distribution of the English languageEdit

As of 2016, 400 million people spoke English as their first language, and 1.1 billion spoke it as a secondary language. English is the largest language by a number of speakers. It is spoken by communities on every continent[7].

Foreign language influences on the English languageEdit

English has borrowed words from several languages over the course of its histo­ry. A great deal of the foreign elements in the English lexicon is of Latin or French origin, but several other languages have influenced English as well, e.g. Germanic language and Greek.

A computerized survey of about 80,000 words in the old Shorter Oxford Dictionary (3rd ed.) was published in Ordered Profusion by Thomas Finkenstaedt and Dieter Wolff (1973)[8] that estimated the origin of English words as follows:

  •    French: ~29%
  •    Latin, including modern scientific and technical Latin: ~29%
  •    Germanic languages – inherited from Old English, from Proto-Germanic, or a more recent borrowing from a Germanic language such as Old Norse: ~26%
  •    Greek: ~6%
  •    Derived from proper names: ~4%
  •    All other languages / No etymology given: ~6%
Origins of English [9]

French influence on EnglishEdit

Most of the French vocabulary now appearing in English was imported over the centuries following the Norman Conquest of 1066, when England came under the administration of Norman-speaking peoples. Although French is derived mainly from Latin (which accounts for about 60% of English vocabulary either directly or via a Romance language), it also includes words from Gaulish and Germanic languages (especially Old Frankish). Since English is of Germanic origin, words that have entered English from the Germanic elements in French might not strike the eye as distinctively from French.

Norman's rule of England had a lasting impact on British society. Words from Anglo-Norman or Old French include terms related to chivalry, the organization of religion, the nobility, the art of war, heraldry, military, politics and economics, law, diplomacy, arts, architecture, aviation, and auto-mobile engineering, cuisine, colors and other Influences[10].

Latin influence on EnglishEdit

A significant portion of the English vocabulary comes from Romance and Latinate sources. A portion of these borrowings come directly from Latin, or through one of the Romance languages, particularly Anglo-Norman and French, but some also from Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish; or from other languages (such as Gothic, Frankish, or Greek) into Latin and then into English. The influence of Latin in English, therefore, is primarily lexical in nature, being confined mainly to words derived from Latin roots[11].

Germanic languages' influence on EnglishEdit

The biggest influence of another Germanic language on the development of English by far and away is that of Old Norse. This was the mother tongue from which the modern languages of Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese evolved. Old Norse was brought to England when Viking raiders mostly from Denmark invaded and colonized northern and eastern portions of England in the mid to late 800s AD. These invaders vanquished the natives of England at the time, which were the Angles and Saxons, and drove them to the south and west of the country.

Since Old Norse was a language very similar to the Old English that the Angles and Saxons then spoke, a lot of words and linguistic constructs from Old Norse easily transferred over to Old English. This was especially true of the cognates and grammatical structures that were easier to use in Old Norse than Old English, as the lack of verb and noun inflections. Eventually, English has absorbed words from Germanic languages related to academia, architecture, arts, heraldry, music, genres, theatre, typography, biology, chemistry, chess, economics, geography, geology, history, military, linguistics, literature, mathematics, and formal logic, medicine, philosophy, physical sciences, politics, psychology, sociology, theology.

Spanish language etymologyEdit

Spanish is a Romance language that originated from Vulgar Latin, which was brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Romans during the Second Punic War, beginning in 210 BC. Spanish is written in the Latin script, with the addition of the character ⟨ñ⟩. The language has absorbed many loanwords from other Romance languages, e.g. from French, Italian, and Portuguese. Around 75% of modern Spanish vocabulary is derived from Latin, including Latin borrowings from Ancient Greek[12].

The standard Spanish language is also called Castilian in its original variant. The name is used in order to distinguish it from other languages native to parts of Spain, such as Galician, Catalan, Basque, etc. Castilian Spanish originated (after the decline of the Roman Empire) as a continuation of spoken Latin in several areas of northern Spain. Eventually, the variety spoken in the Spanish city of Toledo around the 13th century became the basis for the written standard. With the Reconquista, this northern dialect spread to the south, where it almost entirely replaced or absorbed the local Romance dialects, at the same time as it borrowed many words from Andalusi Arabic and was influenced by Mozarabic. These languages had vanished in the Iberian Peninsula by the late 16th century[13].

With the Reconquista in Iberia, various Vulgar Latin language groups ended up mixing.

Geographical distribution of the Spanish languageEdit

Spanish is the primary language in 20 countries worldwide. As of 2020, it is estimated that about 463 million people speak Spanish as a native language, making it the second most spoken language by a number of native speakers. It is also the fourth most spoken language in the world overall after English, Mandarin Chinese, and Hindi, with a total number of 538 million speakers. Spanish is also the third most used language on the Internet, after English and Russian.

Foreign language influences on the Spanish languageEdit

Some scholars estimate that 75 percent of Spanish words come from Latin and were in use in Spain before the time of Christ. The remaining 25 percent come from other languages. Of these languages (and language families), the four that have contributed the most words are Arabic, Indigenous languages of the Americas, Germanic, and Celtic.

Arabic languages' influence on SpanishEdit

The lexical influence of Arabic reached its greatest level during the Christian Reconquista in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. Much of the Arabic influence upon Spanish came through the various Arabized Romance dialects that were spoken in areas under Moorish rule, known today by scholars as Mozarabic. This resulted in Spanish often having both Arabic and Latin derived words with the same meaning.

Indigenous languages of the Americas' influence on SpanishEdit

The colonization of the Americas, a process that started in 1492 with the discovery of the continent by Christopher Columbus under Spanish patronage, also brought with it great changes in the local language. While the conquistadors imposed their tongue from Mexico to Argentina, native languages also imparted their own influences on vocabulary, most notably in the naming of the new species of flora and fauna discovered across the region. This trend is more noticeable in Latin America itself, where many Spanish terms have been superseded by their indigenous counterparts. Interestingly, different countries in the region itself use the terms of local tribes instead of a standard denominator; for example, an avocado is aguacate in Mexico (and Spain for that matter) from the Nahuatl language, while in Chile, Argentina and elsewhere in South America, the Quechua term palta is preferred.

Germanic languages' influence on SpanishEdit

Spain was controlled by the Visigoths between the 5th and 8th centuries. Although Germanic languages by most accounts affected the phonological development very little, Spanish words of Germanic origin are present in all varieties of Modern Spanish. Many of the Spanish words of Germanic origin were already present in Vulgar Latin, and so they are shared with other Romance languages[14].

Celtic languages' influence on SpanishEdit

Some scholars assume that a population of bilingual Celtiberian–Vulgar Latin speakers has had an influence on the development of Old Spanish. The other assumption is that Continental Celtic, an extinct branch of Celtic, did indeed exhibit the types of phonological changes that are known to exist in modern Insular Celtic languages.

English-Spanish cognatesEdit

You will find the content of this section here.

English-Spanish bilingual homophones (false friends)Edit

You will find the content of this section here.

English–Spanish interlingual homographsEdit

Relationships between pronunciation, spelling, and meaning of words, homographs, homonyms, homophones, heteronyms, and heterographs.

An interlingual homograph is a word that occurs in more than one written language, but which has a different meaning and/or pronunciation in each language.

Many of the words in the list below are Latin cognates. Because Spanish is a Romance language (which means it evolved from Latin), many of its words are either inherited from Latin or derive from Latin words. Although English is a Germanic language, it, too, incorporates thousands of Latinate words that are related to words in Spanish. Yet even with so many Latin cognates, only a small minority are written precisely the same in both languages. Even though the words in this list are written the same in both languages, none of them are pronounced the same[15].

The list provided below includes only homographs that are written precisely the same in English and Spanish: They have the same spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word dividers, etc. It excludes proper nouns and words that have different diacritics.

Arabic homographs in English and SpanishEdit

alcohol, alfalfa, henna, imam, soda.

Greek homographs in English and SpanishEdit

amnesia, anemia(s), aorta(s), auto(s), beta(s), drama(s), enema(s), gas(es), gastritis, gingivitis, melodrama(s), metro(s), otitis, panorama(s), sepia(s).

Japanese homographs in English and SpanishEdit

judo, karaoke, kimono, mecha(s), sushi tsunami(s).

Latin homographs in English and SpanishEdit

abdomen, absolve(s), absorbed, abuse(s), accede(s), acceded, acuse(s), admire(s), antecede(s), anteceded, adore(s), alias, anterior, arteriosclerosis, ascended, aspire(s), atlas, balance(s), base(s), calibre(s), cede(s), cheque(s), civil, clan, combine(s), compare(s), compile(s), complete(s), concede(s), condense(s), conserve(s), converse(s), console(s), contended, control, converge(s), converged, cosmos, cruel, debate(s), declare(s), defended, define(s), depended, depone(s), deponed, derive(s), detective(s), determine(s), diabetes, dispute(s), don, eclipse(s), emerge(s), emerged, enclave(s), escape(s), excuse(s), exhale(s), expulse(s), fallen, fatigue(s), formula(s), fume(s), fusile(s), gratis, grave(s), herpes, ignore(s), imagine(s), indices, induce(s), impulse(s), inclusive, inflame(s), inspire(s), invite(s), laurel, marches, mire(s), move(s), mediocre, nave(s), noble, oasis, observe(s), opine(s), parasol, pare(s), patine(s), pelvis, perfume(s), plan(es), precede(s), preceded, prepare(s), pretended, pulse(s), pubis, recuse(s), relieve(s), removed, resolved, respire(s), responded, semen, simple, sublime, suspense, tended, tire(s), use(s), vended, virus, vote(s).


Spanglish is a hybrid language in which Spanish and English words are mixed within a phrase without being translated, English words are changed due to improper translation, or English words are given a Spanish pronunciation, creating new words. Spanglish is a name given to various contact dialects that result from the interaction between Spanish and English used by people who speak both languages or parts of both languages. The term Spanglish is first recorded in 1933. It corresponds to the Spanish terms Espanglish (from Español + English, introduced by the Puerto Rican poet Salvador Tió in the late 1940s), Ingléspañol (from Inglés + Español), and Inglañol (Inglés + Español).

Spanglish is spoken commonly in the modern United States, reflecting the growth of the Hispanic-American population due to immigration. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Hispanics grew from 35.3 million to 53 million between 2000 and 2012.

Spanglish is informal and lacks documented structure and rules, although speakers can consistently judge the grammaticality of a phrase or sentence.


Calques are translations of entire words or phrases from one language into another. They represent the simplest forms of Spanglish, as they undergo no lexical or grammatical structural change.


  • "to call back" → llamar pa'trás (volver a llamar)
  • "It's up to you." → está pa'rriba de ti (depende de ti)

The examples above are literal translations of the English phrases.


  1. Rizzo, Betty; Villafane, Santiago (1975). "SPANISH LANGUAGE INFLUENCES ON WRITTEN ENGLISH". Journal of Basic Writing 1 (1): 62–71. ISSN 0147-1635. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43442862. 
  2. Berk-Seligson, Susan (2012-04-13). The Bilingual Courtroom: Court Interpreters in the Judicial Process (in en). University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-92327-7. https://books.google.com.hk/books?id=D-inAwAAQBAJ&lpg=PA120&ots=2WsxQOspXv&dq=spanish%20longer%20than%20english&pg=PA120#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  3. Hogg, Richard M.; Blake, Norman Francis; Burchfield, R. W.; Romaine, Suzanne; Lass, Roger (1992). The Cambridge History of the English Language: 1066-1476 (in en). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-26475-4. https://books.google.pl/books/about/The_Cambridge_History_of_the_English_Lan.html?id=UlD3ksfXl5IC&redir_esc=y. 
  4. Crystal, David (2003-08-25). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language - (in en). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-82348-7. https://books.google.pl/books?id=A3b3ngEACAAJ&redir_esc=y. 
  5. "How English evolved into a global language". BBC News. 2010-12-20. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  6. "The Germanic Languages". Routledge & CRC Press. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  7. "Which countries are best at English as a second language?". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  8. Finkenstaedt, Thomas; Wolff, Dieter (1973). Ordered Profusion; Studies in Dictionaries and the English Lexicon (in en). C. Winter. ISBN 978-3-533-02253-4. https://books.google.pl/books/about/Ordered_Profusion_Studies_in_Dictionarie.html?id=PK-0AAAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y. 
  9. "File:Origins of English PieChart.svg". Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Origins_of_English_PieChart.svg. 
  10. "List of English words of French origin". Wikipedia. 2021-04-25. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_English_words_of_French_origin&oldid=1019837089. 
  11. "Latin influence in English". Wikipedia. 2021-05-13. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Latin_influence_in_English&oldid=1022908836. 
  12. Raices griegas y latinas (in es). Ediciones Umbral. ISBN 978-968-5430-01-2. https://books.google.pl/books?id=caqn_7i6tvkC&redir_esc=y. 
  13. Penny, Ralph; Penny, Ralph John (2002-10-21). A History of the Spanish Language (in en). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-01184-6. https://books.google.pl/books?id=ZjcrhyQlFa0C&redir_esc=y. 
  14. "Influences on the Spanish language". Wikipedia. 2021-04-12. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Influences_on_the_Spanish_language&oldid=1017346975. 
  15. "List of English–Spanish interlingual homographs". Wikipedia. 2021-04-18. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_English%E2%80%93Spanish_interlingual_homographs&oldid=1018532159. 
  16. "Spanglish". Wikipedia. 2021-06-12. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Spanglish&oldid=1028177976.