Bite-sized Tips No. 25: False Friends on Hotel Websites

A usual sight on British beaches, deckchairs are not found that often around hotel pools in Spain

A recent tourism editing job had me scouring through many translated websites of hotels (Spanish to English, my pair) and I was appalled to see the same mistakes made again and again.

Of course, this might be because the company used machine translation (MT) or non-native speakers for the job. Because a lot of people think tourism texts are so simple that MT will be good enough.

Unfortunately, that’s why many in the sector refuse to allocate a high enough budget to translating their marketing material. The less they are willing to spend, the more likely their translated text will fail.

Fail to communicate what they really want to say. Fail to give a good impression. Fail to build trust with their potential guests.

Here are some of the mistakes I noticed:

Hamaca: Reverso, which is the first online dictionary I usually turn to when I want to look up a term, tells you that this is hammock or deckchair if it’s plegable.

It’s only when you click on the link at the bottom of the page to “see more examples in context” (which takes you to Reverso Context) that you finally see the translations you’ll probably need: sunlounger (the option I tend to use) and sunbed (sunbed also refers to a tanning machine that I haven’t used since I was in my 20s because of the associated skin cancer risk). In some cases it might even refer to a daybed.

It’s highly unlikely to be an actual hammock, as shown in the photo on the right. But if in doubt, you should always visit the hotel’s website to look at their photos.

Solarium: Another false friend because you probably shouldn’t translate this as solarium (though many do) when it appears on Spanish hotel websites.

Although one of the translations for this term is solarium in English, this means: (a) a place where they have sunlamps or sunbeds (of the tanning machine variety mentioned above and shown in the photo on the left); or (b) a sun room with lots of windows to let in the sunlight.

But when solarium is used on Spanish hotel websites, it usually refers to the area around a pool or on a terrace where there are sunloungers. Instead of solarium you should use sun terrace or sundeck or sunbathing area (again, your choice will depend on what you see in the photos on the hotel website and your personal preference).

Terraza: Although this can often happily be translated as terrace, this is not always what it means.

A friend of mine in Madrid proudly told me once that he had terrazas at his flat in Malasaña (where I used to live). Given that my only exterior windows in my flat at the time were too high up to see anything out of, I was extraordinarily jealous until I realised his terrazas were two balconies that he could barely fit one chair on.

Terrace with sunloungers

Be careful when a hotel room is described as having a terraza because we shouldn’t give guests false information. Only suites and/or the most expensive rooms at the top of the hotel are likely to actually have a terrace. The others will have balconies. Again, looking at photos of the rooms should help you clarify what’s meant. Otherwise, ask the client.

Animación: For this last one, I’d like to get your opinion. Since animation reminds me of cartoons brought to life on the screen, I’m not a fan of using animation to describe the entertainment put on at a hotel. And I’m even less fond of animator and would much rather use entertainer. But I’ve seen them used on countless websites including many UK ones. So over to you. Do you agree with me?

Bite-sized Tips No. 24: Quotation Marks or Italics

3 thoughts on “Bite-sized Tips No. 25: False Friends on Hotel Websites

  1. Thanks for the information on Reverso, Nikki. I’d rather discounted it as a reference source, because every time I search for technical terms I more or less only get results – usually from patents – which are merely someone’s (or something’s) translation of a whole sentence in a specific context – again usually from a patent – which is frequently of rather dubious quality, so like Linguee, but less good. I’m glad to know there’s more to it than that.

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    1. Hi Alison, I think people’s views of whether Reverso or Linguee is better depend on their language combination. Apparently, Linguee is good for English and German (both ways, I believe), but I cringe every time I use it (mostly in desperation) for ES>EN. But I agree that Reverso is not good for technical terminology.
      I wrote about Reverso a while ago, in case you’re interested: https://nikkigrahamtranix.com/2015/10/09/time-to-reverso-your-use-of-linguee/

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