Saturday, February 15, 2014

Curious Translation

The Rad Trad confessed today at a parish with a very large Hispanic congregation. Indeed there is a free standing chapel dedicated to ministry with the Hispanic community in the area. While waiting I read the Spanish missalette in the pew in front of me. A few things stood out as odd:
  • The translation is generally superior to the previous English translation, getting all the responses right and conveying the Ordo Missae accurately
  • Our Lord is addressed in the informal singular tense! "Señor ten piedad" for the Kyrie rather than  "Señor, tenga piedad." God, maker of heaven and earth, is addressed informally in a language possessing a formal tense, Usted/Ustedes. [edit: smn has a point. I guess this stood out to me because in other languages archaic vestiges are retained at times in order to emphasize some formality in addressing the Divine, like Thee and Thou in English]
  • The translation employs "Vosotros" for second person plural throughout. "Vosotros" in Spanish is "You" plural. Why is his all Traddiness bringing up this point? Because "vosotros" is used more or less exclusively in Spain, although speakers in Latin America will understand it. But why should they only understand it if it is vernacular? If the translation is in vernacular why not use the vernacular of the congregation rather than the vernacular of people 5,000 miles away?
While I defend the viability of vernacular in and of itself, the translations given to the faithful have been atrocious. 


  1. Don't all languages which distinguish between formal and informal tenses (including English, historically) use the informal singular tense to address God - Father, Son and Holy Ghost?

  2. As a Spaniard,perhaps I can make some remarks:

    1-Tratitional Spanish prayers (at least in Spain) to the Lord or to Our Lady used to have the form "Vos", which in Spain is actually an archaism, instead of "Tú", as it is today. But the trend of "tuteo" became increasingly spread during XX century: a hymn to Our Lady composed in 1930 addressed to Her using already "Tú"; in the 60ies the use of "Vos" dissapeared. The 1965 Missal says: "Señor, ten piedad". So today all vernacular prayers, and chants, use "Tú" (or "tú", wich is odder), but it is not exactly a fruit of the Council.

    2-Your point on using "vosotros" is very interesting: the differences in vocabulary, verbal tenses, &c. has been a problem in vernacularization of liturgy since the sixties, and also in translations of the Scripture. There has been a "consensus" in composing the translations in some kind of "standard language", understable on both sides of the Atlantic; so in the Spanish Bibles the most-Spanish expressions have been removed, preferring neutral ones. But on the other hand, there have been some very odd "exchanges" between Spain and America: perhaps the "vosotros" that you saw is some of these. (For example, the Spanish translation of the Lord's Prayer, which was still very widespread 20 years ago, said: "perdónanos nuestras deudas, así como nosotros perdonamos a nuestros deudores" [dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris], but due to political reasons, it was replaced in the Liturgy by "perdónanos nuestras ofensas, así como nosotros perdonamos a los que nos ofenden; the latter translation was made in America, perhaps influenced by economic-minded leftist prelates, and later imposed in Spain).

    It is also possible that using "vosotros", among Hispanic catholics, is regarded as some kind of archaism, in the same way as in some places in Argentina, where the usual 2nd singular person pronoun is "vos", the pronoun "tú" is used sometimes in Liturgy.

    I hope not to have been too "pesado" in my statements.

    Kyrie eleison

  3. Hi the translation is really curious but i say the spain translation are not so easy for that we want the professional translator and the spanish local it will give perfect.

    translators in ahmedabad | translation services