Ooh! That’s Interesting!: Saura on Spanish translations

Today is the third installment in my series of interviews about Dreamspinner Press’s translations program. I am delighted to present to you Saura, who coordinates the Spanish translations.

Si quieren leer la entrevista en español, pueden hacerlo aquí.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello! My name is Saura Underscore and I’m the Spanish Language coordinator and Social Manager for Dreamspinner Press Spanish. I was born in Madrid, Spain, and I’m old enough to have lived under a dictatorial regime for a very little bit. I am one of those who grew up with a new democracy and liberties, but that still had to fight for our rights. I’m married with the love of my life, who is very supportive with every madness I come up with, and I have a small hyperactive kid.

I have a degree in English that allows me to teach in primary schools, and they were crazy enough to give me a bilingual certificate that allows me to give classes only in English. I’m actually pretending to study to get a permanent position at a public school, and right now I’m teaching English to 5 years old children.

What are some of the things you have to worry about when doing translations?

The most important thing to worry about is that all our translations must follow the RAE rules of writing, grammar and spelling. RAE is an official institution that is dedicated to create Spanish dictionaries and Spanish grammar rules that everybody must follow. During these two and a half years, for example, our first books have a tilde (the small dash on top of some vocals) in some words that RAE decided they don’t have it anymore, and we have to make sure they don’t have it now!

After that, we need to make sure that our books use standard (neutral) Spanish. We sell both in Spain and everywhere in Latin America. Even though the foundation of the language is the same and we all follow RAE rules, the kind of Spanish we speak is very different. The way to use “you” in plural comes to mind right now  (I know Ariel already spoke of the fact that we have to ways of saying “you”, one formal that we use for meetings, when we don’t know the person or they are old, and one informal for friends and family). In most of Spain they use the informal “you” form in plural. Everywhere in Latin America and the Canary Islands, for example, they use the formal “you” form in plural. You can tell if the translator is from Spain or not just for this!

And then you have the wording. There are words that you can say in Spain that means another thing completely in Mexico, for example!! “Coger” (take, catch, pick up, ride) is one of them. In Mexican, for example, “coger” means “to have sex”. You must be careful not to “coger” the bus!!

Finally you have the slang, the accents, the phrasing and the titles from the English versions. Just like Ariel explained some of them are impossible to translate to Spanish (how can we convey the Southern accent so that it makes sense for a Bolivian reader?). Some cultural jokes don’t make sense for us either and they have to be explained in a foot note or translated to one that makes sense to all of us in a lot of different countries. About the titles: sometimes we needed to speak with authors to change them completely. They are especially difficult when they play with words that have a lot of different meanings in Spanish, but not the same word to be able to translate it. Dex in Blue for example. There were four possible different translations for it, and I can tell you none could cover the whole meaning of the title!

What are some of the exciting things about translating?

For me, the most exciting is to read a book I really liked in English, read it in my own language and see that the translator and proofreader made it justice: that they managed to give a voice in Spanish to the author and the characters, and that it’s the correct one.

Also the possibility of chatting with authors and helping them to speak with their Spanish readers, speak in Spanish. That’s fantastic.

How do you find translators?


We used the word of mouth at first. Those who applied were made to translate a complete small story that used difficult phrasing and slang, as well as a very particular and located festivity that doesn’t exist in Europe or Latin America, to check just how well they could transform those into readable, with sense Spanish. Unfortunately for us there are no positions open right now.

Are there any special challenges with the Spanish language?

I think we would love to sound “local”. We would love our readers not to know if the translator is from Chile or Venezuela or Spain, and to sound as the reader would love us to sound. That’s why we use the international expressions. But I fear that it’s impossible.

What genres are popular for Spanish readers?

It depends on where you want to focus your attention. Contemporary novel is probably our best seller, along with Changeling and Vampire histories in most of the Latin American countries. There’s a lot of interest in Wresters there too. In Spain the readers go more for both Contemporary and Historical. I think we all agree on the interest for Crime Fiction thrillers and mysteries.

The trickiest challenge we have as a project is to meet everybody’s tastes. We are probably the hugest potential market, but our tastes differ from one country to the next, and even from one city to the next! Making everybody happy is extremely difficult, even though we try.

What can you tell us about the Spanish market for m/m romance?

It’s a difficult market, especially considering it all as a whole thing, instead of independent markets divided in countries.

I think the worst part comes for promotion: even though in Spain, for example, gay marriage is legal and we are supposed to be open minded enough to be able to say we are reading m/m romance, it’s not true. Gay editorials, even those that have been on the market for long like our partner “Complices”, have a lot of trouble going to book fairs and find a clear spot to sell. Big book stores don’t sell gay romance, or have it hidden in dark shelves or unable to find in their websites. Don’t get me started with countries where being gay is still a punishable crime!

In Latin America we found trouble with payments specially. Not all countries allow their people to have a credit card easily and having access to a paypal-account, something that apparently is so easy, is not when your money is being controlled. The new tax that has set in Europe is not helping us either.

However, the Spanish is a market that devours books and love to comment on them and to their writers. When doing a chat with an author, you can feel that love!

Spanish is so widely spoken! What countries do most of Dreamspinner’s Spanish readers live in?

According to our numbers Perú is the country were DSP has more fans. Then Venezuela is the second country and Spain comes on the third place. We even have US citizens buying us in Spanish!

One last question: What places are on your travel bucket list?

We are planning to make a family trip to France this summer, but everything is on the air for now. I’d love to visit Italy and Greece, which are the only two countries in Europe I haven’t visited yet. And we have a lot of friends in Germany, UK and USA, and even we’ve been there already, a visit is always something we are ready to do plan.


4 thoughts on “Ooh! That’s Interesting!: Saura on Spanish translations”

  1. Thank you SO MUCH for allowing me to do this, Kim! Hopefully the “in Spanish” market would be better known now 🙂

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