Thread poster: isabelid

United States
English to Spanish
Sep 26, 2017

How do you translate acrostics? I have a document where it appears the acrostic SAFE:
S leeping in the bassinet is safest
A lert and aware
F alls can cause serious injury
E xtreme tiredness of a caregiver is a big factor in infant falls

So as you can see you can read the word SAFE in vertical...I can't come up with anything similar. Should I just ignore the acrostic strategy and just convey message on my Spanish document?

Thank you for any insight on this topic!!


MollyRose  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:22
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
depends on context, layout Sep 27, 2017

If you have the word in the preceding text, such as: We use SAFE in our program ... you could translate it like this:

Utilizamos SAFE (las siglas en inglés para lo mencionado a continuación) ...

Dormir en ...
Estar alerta ...

If the word SAFE is not used in the text or heading anywhere, then probably just ignore the fact that it spells a word, unless you think it's important enough to make a translator's note below the list, or as a footnote.


English to Russian
+ ...
Opt Sep 27, 2017

While in Russian it may be as "Сей[и]ф", in Spanish it could be either the original word "SAFE" or a synonym like "SANO", perhaps. It depends on the later use of the word, if any.

However, one shouldn't forget about other style and literature devices.


[Edited at 2017-09-27 05:56 GMT]


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:22
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Isabel Sep 27, 2017

isabelid wrote:
How do you translate acrostic [mnemonics]?

I'm just thinking out loud.

Acrostic mnemonics have six elements to consider, namely (a) the code word/phrase (in this case "SAFE"), (b) whether the usual meaning of the code word/phrase (if any) relates to the mnemonic as a whole, (c) the individual items, (d) whether the sequence of the individual items is relevant/important, and (e) the overall meaning that the text of the mnemonic tries to communicate, and (f) whether a mnemonic is in fact necessary (and if yes, whether it is necessary to be an acrostic).

To translate it, you have to arrange these six elements in order from most important to convey to least important to convey. Based on that ordering, you can decide on a strategy to translate it.

The mnemonic in your example appears to have been created with little effort or thought. Some people just create these things on the fly, without evaluating whether the mnemonic they created is likely to be helpful, or likely to be a success.

The fact that the author includes this rubbish acrostic in his text tells me that having an acrostic mnemonic is probably more important to him than communicating efficiently. The fact that the author stuck to a code word despite it being painfully obvious that the message can only be forced onto this key word with great difficulty tells me that the code word itself is also very important to the author. The sequence of the items in your example doesn't matter. In fact, the items in your example have such a randomness to them that I believe you can easily get away with creating a mnemonic in Spanish that is not exactly 4 items long and which may not even retain all the meaning of the four individual items.

So... in your case: choose a Spanish word that means "safe" or similar, or that has something to do with the context, e.g. "sleep", "crib", "baby", and try to create an acrostic that conveys most of the content of the English mnemonic. Feel free to borrow from surrounding paragraphs to create additional items, if necessary.

Also, you don't always have to create a pure acrostic (i.e. it's not always necessary for the code word/phrase to match the first letters). If you have access to font variation (e.g. bold or underline) you can even use letters in the middle of words. Another tactic is to use hyphens (e.g. if you want "bassinet" to match "S", you can write "bas-s-inet" or "bas-S-inet"). Yet another is to write the relevant letter separately (e.g. "ABC: always (A) breastfeed (B) carefully (C)" or "A = always B = breastfeed C = carefully (ABC)". You can also combine these tactics (e.g. "[A]lways [b]reastfeed [c]arefully"). You don't have to write down the mnemonic in the same style as the source text.

Of course, if you can't come up with anything, just translate it.

[Edited at 2017-09-27 10:23 GMT]


Hedwig Spitzer Cáceres  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:22
French to Spanish
+ ...
DZiW's option is nice Sep 27, 2017

Sano could be a nice solution, it really depends on the rest of the document:

S eguridad al dormir en ....
A lerta y atento....
No a las caídas que pueden provocar heridas ...
O bligarse a descansar, la fatiga extrema de los cuidadores es un factor importante en las caídas de los niños

Good luck and inspiration!


United States
Local time: 01:22
Member (2013)
English to French
+ ...
Transcreation for a more spontaneous and creative approach. Sep 27, 2017

The benefit of transcreation could be an effective solution in this case; the translated material achieves as nearly as possible the effect in the target country that the original material was meant to have.


United States
English to Spanish
Thank you! Sep 28, 2017

Thank you all for your insight and suggestions! They are very valuable.


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