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Marta Mateo and Brian Mott (Eds) (2009).  Diccionario-guía de traducción español-inglés, inglés-español.

Barcelona: Publicacions I Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona (Diccionarios UB), 666 pp. 28 €  ISBN: 978-84-475-3403-6. 

The Diccionario-guía de traducción español-inglés, inglés-español is a comprehensive update of an earlier work by one of its authors, Brian Mott: the Spanish-English, English-Spanish Translation Companion for Spanish Learners of English (Barcelona: EUB, 1996). Marketed at both translators and students of English and Spanish, this 2009 text is an advanced alphabetical lexicon and guide to grammar and usage. Its selective entries distinguish the Diccionario-guía from a standard bilingual dictionary or grammar guide and provide in-depth discussions, alternative translations and contextualised insights into specific problems that recur most frequently when the native speaker of Spanish or English attempts to translate into their target language.

The Diccionario-guía is divided into two sections: the first, written in Spanish and offering an alphabetical Spanish-English dictionary (33), and the second, written in English, an English-Spanish dictionary (361). Interspersed alphabetically among the dictionary items are a series of grammatical and other common problem-areas dealing with themes such as conditionality, exclamations, connectors, advice and the subjunctive. Other items of consistent difficulty for learners of Spanish and English such as youth culture, social networking or technology might be considered as possible entries in future revisions.

In common with other texts aimed at learners of Spanish and English, the text is helpfully bilingual, with the preface, acknowledgements and contents given both in Spanish and in English, with this latter section differentiating between lexical and grammatical entries through the alternating use of italics and roman type. This makes both types of entry highly visible and easy to locate within the body of the text. With regard to the Index, although the explanatory addendum is not bilingual, this is one of the most useful sections, with lexical entries again differentiated from the grammatical through the alternating use of italic and roman type, and including a large number of references to terms used internally within the body of the text. This creates a substantive guide not only to formal entries within the dictionary itself, but also to the descriptions and usage notes found within the explanations themselves. Unlike a standard bilingual dictionary, considerable space is devoted to explanation and contextualisation, giving not only a translation in the relevant language, but also a series of examples drawn from a range of sources, including online corpora, multilingual concordances and dictionary databases. Explanations drawing on news media and contemporary fiction offer an authentic and modern flavour. In addition to lexical entries, the inclusion of common issues of grammar and usage encountered by the learner of Spanish or English as a second language complements the bilingual dictionary element.

The text is aimed principally at the Spanish-speaking learner of English as a second language, with the Spanish-English dictionary section, for example, being itself written in Spanish-language and substantially longer than the English-Spanish section, reflecting, say the authors, the “Spanish-English bias of the dictionary” (27). Despite this emphasis on Spanish-speaking learners of English, however, the text also offers scope for English-speaking translators working from Spanish into English as a target language, who benefit most from the section identified by the authors as aimed primarily at the Spanish learner of English. This reflects an added-value aspect for translators into English of a text marketed mainly at Spanish-language learners of English.

The Diccionario-guía is aselective, in-depth and well-sourced supplement to the standard bilingual dictionary, with entries chosen for their role as challenging and frequently problematic areas for native speakers of Spanish or English when trying to direct their speech into the target language. By complementing lexical entries with common issues of grammar and usage, the Diccionario-guía recognises that native speakers encounter challenges to translation along both semantic and grammatical lines, and offers a relevant, contextualised and substantive contribution to the language learner’s toolkit. Augmented by an informal and accessible register, its structure recommends itself to Spanish learners of English and may also benefit the student of translation seeking to translate out of Spanish or English into their native language.

Sarah Maitland,
Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom, School of Languages,
Literatures and Performing Arts.