Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Occupied Spider

Back in December I mentioned looking for matching board books in different languages, so reading to Smiley will help his ear be used to non-English language sounds.

Smiley is now really interested in his books. He loves being read to, even when he is going to bed: swaddled and unable himself to turn the pages or touch the pictures. So we finally ordered a few of board books in Spanish that match some of his English ones.

Of course we ordered the Spanish version of The Very Busy Spider. When I taught preschool that was perhaps the best of all classroom books. The combination of entertaining animal noises and a repetitive chorus made it great for Circle Time. The colorful illustrations that also had a tactile component caused students to want to continue spending time with the book after it was read to them.

Now a mystery has arisen.

The lone Amazon review of La Araña Muy Ocupado says its translation is dreadful. My own knowledge of Spanish is so basic that I only notice a few problems, none too serious (for example the English "...just like that!" has a much different feel to it than the Spanish "...en un momento!").

If one of my readers who is more fluent in Spanish can provide further commentary, I would be grateful.

The English and Spanish text is below. I hope Eric Carle and Penguin Books pardon me for posting it: I doubt anyone will refrain from purchasing such a classic read-aloud experience merely because the text is here. (And if that Amazon review is erroneous or over-picky, I'll write a "correction".)



Early one morning the wind blew a spider across the field.
Un día muy temprano el viento sopló una araña a travès del campo.
A thin, silky thread trailed from her body.
Un hilo delgado y sedoso era dejado por su cuerpo.
The spider landed on a fence post near a farm yard...
La araña llegó a un poste de la valla cerca al patio de un finca...
and began to spin a web with her silky thread.
y comenzó a tejer una telaraña con us hilo sedoso.

"Neigh! Neigh!" said the horse. "Want to go for a ride?"
"Híiiiii! Híiiiii!" relinchó el caballo. "¿Quieres tomar un paseo?"
The spider didn't answer. She was very busy spinning her web.
Pero la araña no contestó. Estaba muy ocupada, tejiendo su tela.

"Moo! Moo!" said the cow. "Want to eat some grass?"
"Muuu! Muuu!" mujió la vaca. "¿Quieres comer hierba?"
The spider didn't answer. She was very busy spinning her web.
Pero la araña no contestó. Estaba muy ocupada, tejiendo su tela.

"Baa! Baa!" bleated the sheep. "Want to run in the meadow?"
"Bee! Bee!" baló la oveja. "¿Quieres correr en el prado?"
The spider didn't answer. She was very busy spinning her web.
Pero la araña no contestó. Estaba muy ocupada, tejiendo su tela.

"Maa! Maa!" said the goat. "Want to jump on the rocks?"
"Maa! Maa!" dijo la cabra. "¿Quieres saltar en las rocas?"
The spider didn't answer. She was very busy spinning her web.
Pero la araña no contestó. Estaba muy ocupada, tejiendo su tela.

"Oink! Oink!" grunted the pig. "Want to roll in the mud?"
"Oink! Oink!" gruñó el cerdo. "¿Quieres jugar en el barro?"
The spider didn't answer. She was very busy spinning her web.
Pero la araña no contestó. Estaba muy ocupada, tejiendo su tela.

"Woof! Woof!" barked the dog. "Want to chase a cat?"
"Guau! Guau!" ladró el perro. "¿Quieres cazar a un gato?"
The spider didn't answer. She was very busy spinning her web.
Pero la araña no contestó. Estaba muy ocupada, tejiendo su tela.

"Meow! Meow!" cried the cat. "Want to take a nap?"
"Miau! Miau!" maulló el gato. "¿Quieres tomar una siesta?"
The spider didn't answer. She was very busy spinning her web.
Pero la araña no contestó. Estaba muy ocupada, tejiendo su tela.

"Quack! Quack!" called the duck. "Want to go for a swim?"
"Cuá! Cuá!" jijo la pata. "¿Quieres ir a nadar?"
The spider didn't answer. She was very busy spinning her web.
Pero la araña no contestó. Estaba muy ocupada, tejiendo su tela.

"Cock-a-doodle-do!" crowed the rooster. "Want to catch a pesty fly?"
"Kikiriki!" cantó el gallo. "¿Quieres cazar este mosca tan necia?"
And the spider caught the fly in her web...just like that!
Y la araña la cogió en su telaraña... en un momento!

"Whoo? Whoo?" asked the owl. "Who built this beautiful web?"
"¿Uuu? ¿Uuu?" preguntó el búho. "¿Quién ha hecho este telaraña tan bonita?"
The spider didn't answer. She had fallen asleep. It had been a very, very busy day.
Pero la araña no contestó. Se había dormido. Había sido un día muy ocupada.

6 comments:

pussreboots said...

The translation is quite literal and therefore awkward and clunky in places.

Heather said...

It does look very literal. I have a very elementary understanding of Spanish but it is definitely not well translated.

Here is the Alta Vista Babel Fish translation from the Spanish back to English:

A very early day the wind blew a spider travès of the field. A thin and silky thread was left by its body. The spider arrived at a post of the fence surrounds to the patio of a property… and it began to weave a spiderweb with U.S. silky thread. " Híiiiii! Híiiiii! " the horse whinnied. " You want to take a stroll? " But the spider did not answer. Very it was occupied, weaving his fabric. " Muuu! Muuu! " mujió the cow. " You want to eat grass? " But the spider did not answer. Very it was occupied, weaving his fabric. " Bee! Bee! " the ewe bleated. " You want to run in the meadow? " But the spider did not answer. Very it was occupied, weaving his fabric. " Maa! Maa! " the goat said. " You want to jump on rocks? " But the spider did not answer. Very it was occupied, weaving his fabric. " Oink! Oink! " gruñó the pig. " You want to play in the mud? " But the spider did not answer. Very it was occupied, weaving his fabric. " Wow! Wow! " the dog barked. " You want to hunt to a cat? " But the spider did not answer. Very it was occupied, weaving his fabric. " Miau! Miau! " maulló the cat. " You want to take a siesta? " But the spider did not answer. Very it was occupied, weaving his fabric. " Cuá! Cuá! " jijo the leg. " You want to go to swim? " But the spider did not answer. Very it was occupied, weaving his fabric. " Kikiriki! " the rooster sang. " You want to hunt this so foolish fly? " And it in a while took it to the spider in its spiderweb…! " Uuu? Uuu? " the owl asked. " Who has made this spiderweb so pretty? " But the spider did not answer. One had fallen asleep. It had been a day very occupied.

Heather said...

Oh, that said, I think any translation with the rhythms and pronunciation is going to be better than not doing it at all. Once he is older and is watching dvd's--we often would watch a favorite like Kipper, Blue's Clues, or Bob the Builder in another language (I believe Bob the Builder has French and Kipper has French and Spanish). It is a good way to expose the kids to the sounds--especially since they also watch it in English and know what is going on in the movie.

Disco Dan said...

Hi there. I realize this post is old, but it's new to me and suddenly relevant. My son understands both English and Spanish (currently), and is almost 2 years old. Most of his board books are Spanish or bilingual. His copy of "The Very Busy Spider", is in English. It was a Christmas gift, so I figured I could read it to him in Spanish. So I wrote down what I thought was the best translation , using my knowledge of the language and a dictionary. Later, I ran a search out of curiosity and found your post here. After reading the translation, it's not awful. Plus, using an online translator to translate from one language to another and back again is almost never an accurate way to see if the translation is accurate. I'll check with my dad later (he's a native speaker), but I believe it's pretty accurate with only a few hiccups. Also, the way sentences and phrases are formed in Spanish is different from English, so for example "La araña llegó a un poste de la valla cerca del patio de una finca" reads literally: "The spider arrived at a post of a fence near the backyard of a property", but a native speaker might read "The spider landed on a fence post near the property's backyard." The word "corral" might have been better, as it literally translates "farm yard". In addition, if you look inside the spanish hardcover version, and the board books, some of the words are different, with the boardbook appearing to be more correct (example, gallina vs gallo). Anyway, let me translate (notes in parentheses):

Disco Dan said...

Early one day, the wind blew a spider across the field. A thin, silky thread was (left) behind her body. The spider landed on a fence post near the property's back yard... and began to spin a web with her silky thread.

(so far, not bad, but I might have said "Un hilo fino (fino means thin in respect to fabric) y sedoso fue por detrás de su cuerpo (more accurately "trailed behind her body"). La araña aterrizó (landed) en un poste cerca del corral..." and the rest is fine.)

"Neigh! Neigh!" whinnied the horse. "Want to go for a ride?" But the spider didn't answer, she was very busy spinning her web.

(Near perfect. "Tela" is a web or net, but "telaraña" is specifically a spiderweb, so I'm not certain if the latter should be used in all instances in this book.)

"Moo! Moo!" etc.

(perfect)

"Baa! Baa!" etc.

(perfect)

"Maa! Maa!" etc.

(perfect)

"Oink! Oink!" grunted the pig. "Want to play in the mud?"

(probably perfect; my dictionary has a phrase for 'to wallow in the mud,' so it might better read "¿Quieres revolcarse por el fango?" but wallowing in mud might have a different implication than rolling. "Play in the mud may better convey the mood.)

"Woof! Woof!" barked the dog. "Want to hunt/catch a cat?"

("¿Quieres perseguir un gato?" might be more accurate, as it means to chase an animal.)

"Meow! Meow!" cried the cat. "Want to take a nap?"

(I had no idea there were so many spanish verbs for animal sounds "relinchar" means to neigh, "maullar" means to meow, etc.)

"Quack! Quack!" said the duck. "Want to go for a swim?"

(using "gritó" instead of "dijo" would have changed "said" into "called", but the rest is perfect)

"Cock-a-doodle-do!" crowed the rooster. "Want to catch this idiotic fly?"

(I love this one. It literally says "Want to hunt/catch this fly which is so idiotic?" and that's grammatically correct in Spanish, but I'm not certain that it conveys "pesty", which as far as I can tell, isn't a word in English, either. I had "¿Quieres agarrar (to catch) una mosca molesta?" 'Molestar' means to bother, but 'molesta' means bothersome as an adjective (and nuisance as a noun))

And the spider caught it in her web... in an instant!

("En un momento" can mean "in an instant", and not necessarily always "in a moment". However, there is a phrase in Spanish, "¡justo así!" which means "just like that!", so that would be more accurate)

"Whoo? Whoo?" asked the owl. "Who (has) built this beautiful web?"

(I'm still learning this "tan " combination, but it appears frequently at the end of sentences and while it seems to translate as an adjective before a noun, it looks like "noun so adjective", so that might be correct. I had used "¿Quién construyó..." which means "Who built", but when asking a question like this, asking about something which has taken place in the past, but over an unknown amount of time, this may actually be completely right.)

The spider didn't answer. She had fallen asleep. The day had been very busy.

(Perfect as far as I can tell.)


There are many grammatical issues when it comes to assigning the appropriate genders of adjectives with their nouns ('este telaraña' should be 'esta telaraña', and a few others.) But other than that, it's BASICally all right. Though now it makes me want to read through his other Spanish books and make sure they're correct.

Sorry for the long posts, and thanks for bringing attention to this!

David V.S. said...

Thank you, everyone, for your help and feedback!