Spanish Language Style Guide and Glossaries: Frequently Mistranslated English Terms

Below are some frequently mistranslated English terms (in bold), and their Spanish translations (in italics).

Abbreviations Key

v: verb
n: noun
adj.: adjective
exp.: expression

Access [v]:
Broadvision (Portal) Acceder a- Avoid: accesar

Act [n] (when referring to a law; No Child Left Behind Act of 2002):
Ley o Proyecto de Ley; Avoid: acta

American [adj.]:
Estadounidense - less desirable: norteamericano; Avoid: americano

Authoritative [adj.]:
Confiable – According to the Real Academia Española, autoritativo is hardly used.

Application [n]:

Apply [v] for a job, or a license, etc.:
Solicitar o postular; less desirable is the Anglicism, aplicar

Apply [v] to a noun (Example: This benefit applies to full-time employees.):
In this case, the verb aplicar should be used in the reflexive form: Este beneficio se aplica a los empleados a tiempo completo.
Avoid Este beneficio aplica a los empleados a tiempo completo. Other ways of translating this sentence are: Este beneficio es para empleados a tiempo completo; o Los empleados a tiempo completo tienen este beneficio.

Circle [v] (when used as a verb in a sentence, such as: Circle the correct answer.):
Action verb in Spanish +… círculo, such as, “encerrar en un círculo la respuesta correcta”
Avoid “circular” when used in this context.

Comprehensive [n]:
Completo, extensivo, amplio. Avoid comprensivo

Directions [n] (as in driving directions, directions to a place, etc.):
Instrucciones, indicaciones. Avoid direcciones

Discrimination [n]:
Discriminación. Avoid discrimen unless your audience is from Ecuador or Puerto Rico

Fact Sheet [n]:
Hoja de datos, planilla de datos

Federal government [n]:
Gobierno federal, estatal, y/o local (Gobierno in Spanish should be capitalized, but not federal, estatal, o local). See the Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas online. Write the term gobierno in the search box for capitalization rules of this word.

File [v] (as in: to file taxes, file a story, etc.):
Declarar, presentar. The word file has many meanings; depending on use, the example only pertains to the use described.

Form [n] (as in: complete this form):
Preferred word is Formulario (Llene o complete este formulario)

Guidelines [n]:
Directrices. Also: directivas, pautas, normas

Launch [v] (when used with a program, initiative, website, new feature, etc.):
Lanzar, Inaugurar, iniciar, estrenar, activar, presentar, introducir al mercado, poner en marcha, etc. – lanzar is by no means the only translation for this term

Learn more about … [exp.] just learned that … [exp.]:
Informar(se), enterar(se), tomar conocimiento de — conjugate accordingly.

Qualify [v] (people who qualify for a program, a job, etc.):
Estar capacitado, calificado para…. Reunir los requisitos para un programa, o asistencia… Avoid: CALIFICAR (Ella califica para el préstamo—incorrect use)

Raise awareness [exp.]:
Concientizar al público (widely used)

Require [v]:
Pedir, exigir; necesitar

Requirement [n]:
Requisito; requerimiento, necesidad

Select [v]:
Seleccionar. Avoid: selectar

Selected list [n]:
Lista selectiva; Listado selectivo

Selection guidelines [n]:
Criterio o criterios de selección

Submit [v] (as in, submit an email or submit a paper):
Enviar o presentar un trabajo o un documento (Avoid: someter)

Suggestion [v]:
Sugerencia, recomendación (Avoid: sugestión, as it’s an Anglicism)

Surgeon General [n]:
Director de Salud Pública (Avoid: “Cirujano General”)