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Why in some essays or articles there are words in author's native language?

(In other words, the essay is in English and there are some Spanish word spread out in whole essay)

Does it necessarily mean targeted audience is Spanish people or there is something else behind?

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I think this is difficult to answer without knowing details about the work in question. Can you elucidate? –  Neil Fein Apr 4 '13 at 1:58

3 Answers 3

Whenever you translate, there is a kind of "semantic loss", which may be easily circumvented when it comes to fictional texts but which may endanger the essence of nonfictional texts such as philosophical treaties or academical research, since the latter kind of texts may contain certain key phrases whose connotations would get lost in the process of translation. If concepts of a certain general interest are concerned, the words signifying them are included into the language system that had no way of referring to those concepts beforehand. Blitzkrieg, schadenfreude, realpolitik and gedankenexperiment are examples for such transfers into the English language.

If the concept signified by a certain word is more specific, there's no need to transfer it beyond the very text it is used in. "Waldesruh" (literally "silence of the woods" or "silence within the woods") is a proper example. I don't think that this word has found its way into English, and yet it's impossible to really translate it, since "silence of the woods" doesn't convey the culturally related imagery (nor its allusions to romanticism or the implied pastoral atmosphere of peacefulness) of this very word.

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"To have another language is to possess a second soul" - Charlemagne

All languages are bound up within their particular cultural contexts. Translation doesn't simply strip some words of their specificity, it can also change their meaning entirely, or how people from different cultures understand that meaning.

By choosing not to translate the word, the author is implying that there is a connotation, context, or idea contained within that word, in that language, that is not present in the "equivalent" word in a different language.

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In many cases, the intent is to add a foreign flavor or a realistic touch to the narrative. In other cases, the foreign word may be difficult to translate; or might not be specific enough in translation; or the author or translator may not have realized that a particular word was not an English word.

For example, in the books of Chinua Achebe (where words from Igbo, a Nigerian language, appear occasionally) ogene is used for one kind of big drum, and Ikolo for another, larger, drum. This is an instance where translation would lose specificity.

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+1 Agreed. And as for the question about the targeted audience, I would say it's just the opposite: The targeted audience is those who speak the language of the main body of the text. The few words in the other language are in some sense intended to broaden the knowledge and understanding of those reading in the primary language. To be more clear, you may write in English, tossing in some Spanish words to expand the horizons of the English-speakers who are reading your work. (jwpat, I upvoted your answer, but I think the part about not knowing the word is not English is highly unlikely.) –  John M. Landsberg Apr 2 '13 at 7:36
    
@JohnM.Landsberg, re “not knowing the word is not English is highly unlikely”, I agree with “unlikely” but not with “highly unlikely” as I've seen it a few times. Re “The targeted audience is those who speak the language of the main body of the text”, fully agree. –  jwpat7 Apr 2 '13 at 8:08
    
@jwpat7 "As I've seen it a few times": can you give an example? (I more or less agree with you; I'm interested to see it in context.) –  Lauren Ipsum Apr 2 '13 at 10:15
    
You've listed mostly good reasons for including a foreign word. I'd mention that writers also sometimes include foreign words for bad reasons, like to show off their knowledge of foreign languages, or to make the writing seem "more sophisticated". –  Jay Apr 2 '13 at 13:40
    
@jwpat7 I recall a friend of mine from China whose English was good but not fluent once included Chinese ideograms for days of the week in a note she wrote. When I asked what these meant, she was surprised and said, "Oh, doesn't everyone use those?" So yes, it happens that people get confused and forget that this word is from their native language and not some other language they're trying to write. –  Jay Apr 2 '13 at 13:49

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