Translating Spanish into Dutch

What are the main grammatical differences between languages that are not related to each other? Some words are redundant in one language, but cannot be ommitted in another. Translating between different languages can be a challenge, especially when the languages are not related to each other. The difficulty with translating Spanish into Dutch is no different.

To explain these challenges, let’s start with an example: “I am lost.” In Spanish, this translates to “Estoy perdido(a),” which is “Ik ben de weg kwijt” in Dutch.

The Present Perfect

When comparing the sentences, it is important to understand that in Spanish, the sentence is written in the present perfect, however, the sentence in Dutch is not. There are many similarities between English and Dutch, but there are hardly any similarities with Spanish.

In Dutch there is no -ido construction as there is in Spanish to describe the present perfect. However, the Dutch use the form Ik ben to describe an ongoing action or problem. In Spanish, this is done by the -ado or -ido form at the end of the word.

Personal Pronouns

Another noticable difference between Dutch and Spanish that, in Spanish, the personal pronoun isn’t mandatory whereas, in Dutch, it is. Here is an example:

Hablo español,” which in Dutch is “Ik spreek Spaans” means “I speak Spanish” in English, shows one can immediately notice the lack of a personal pronoun. In Spanish, there is a lack of a personal pronoun because it isn’t needed, since the –o in hablo implies it. In Dutch, a personal pronoun is needed, just as it is needed in English, and this can present a challenge during translation.

Sound Like a Native Speaker

Because of this significant difference between Spanish and Dutch, it is important to be aware of the fact that Spanish sentences don’t always need a personal pronoun, but Dutch sentences always do, when performing a translation between the two languages. Being familiar enough in Spanish in Dutch to know where a word is redundant, or where it is essential, is the key to completing translations that are correct and sound natural.

About Tim Oldenhuis

I’m a native Dutch translator living in the Netherlands. I translate for Coursera to help make education accessible for everyone. My interests are SEO, Gamification and Marketing. I translate website content and blogs, primarily from English and German into Dutch.