A Newsletter for Spanish Speakers and Learners

From a Times Insider column by Terence McGinley “A Newsletter for Spanish Speakers and Learners”:

Most words in the headline of a New York Times article are capitalized. But capitalization is sparsely employed in the Spanish language, which uses the lowercase for many proper nouns and titles. So when Elda Cantú and her team translate Times articles from English to Spanish, they might lowercase a few letters.

“We work quickly and with a global understanding, but we respect Spanish rules,” Ms. Cantú said of The Times’s Spanish-language operation, which she runs from Mexico City.

In addition to overseeing the translation of a few dozen articles a week, Ms. Cantú is the lead writer for El Times, a newsletter that includes an essay in Spanish and a collection of Times articles that her team translates each week. El Times might begin with news from Latin America, such as the business of migration in the Darién Gap, or with a translated article from somewhere else in the world, such as a new account of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

“We want to surprise people,” Ms. Cantú said. She discussed her team’s work, the intricacies of the Spanish language and how she started her career in journalism. This conversation, which was conducted in English, has been edited.

Who is the audience for El Times and how does it shape the newsletter?

We write El Times for curious and global-minded readers who prefer Spanish because they are native speakers of Spanish, they are trying to learn Spanish or they want to practice Spanish. There are millions of people in the United States who prefer to read their news in Spanish, but there’s also a huge audience living in Latin America, Spain and beyond. We want to offer readers something that they can’t find anywhere else. That means picking the most relevant stories from around the newsroom, including our best investigations and most thought-provoking opinion pieces, translating them and putting them in front of people all over the world.

You mentioned that a portion of readers are English speakers who are learning Spanish. What was your reaction when you realized that people were using El Times as a learning tool?

I’m always delighted to hear that someone is finding our newsletter useful in ways that we haven’t thought about. We’ve heard from doctors who have Spanish-speaking patients, and they use the newsletter to get better at Spanish. We’ve heard from grandmothers who have Spanish-speaking grandchildren who they want to communicate with. We’ve heard from teachers; we heard from a Jesuit priest who was using our articles for debate club. It’s really rewarding to hear from someone who’s reading El Times not only to learn the news, but to further their understanding of the language.

How is a Times article translated from English to Spanish?

Besides me, there are two other editors, Patricia Nieto and Sabrina Duque, who work full time for the Spanish operation. Every day we select the stories we think should be translated. Sometimes, that means hearing pitches from reporters and their editors. Once we have our selection, we commission the articles to a small group of freelance translators. Each translation goes through two layers of editing. We have to take into account certain cultural tweaks; the Spanish spoken in the United States is different from the Spanish you would speak in South America or in Mexico.

You mentioned the distinctions between the Spanish used in different countries. Is there anything else native to the Spanish language that you take into consideration?

There are little things like “cartel,” which can carry an accent on the “a.” Some countries say “cartel,” and other say “cártel.” So if we are writing about the cártel de Sinaloa, we use an accent mark, because that’s the way Mexicans pronounce it. If we are writing about the cartel de Medellín in Colombia, we don’t use an accent. Instead of being neutral, we want to be mindful of the different flavors and inflections of Spanish spoken in different places.

What was your first job in journalism?

My first full-time job in journalism was as managing editor of Etiqueta Negra, a magazine based in Lima, Peru. I was doing freelance work for the magazine for some time while I was teaching college and high school. I was trying to get into journalism, but teaching was what was paying. The editor of the magazine gave me an opportunity, and I haven’t looked back.

Speak Your Mind