For anyone who has not seen an azotea in Mexico, it is more or less a patio on the roof of a house, which is flat. Usually it has a clothesline, flowerpots, a water tank, and maybe even the family dog. Sometimes women use the azotea to gossip and observe the neighbors. In comparison, the A-frame style house or a house with a roof shaped like an A, may have at most an antenna, a couple birds, or a satellite dish for cable TV on its roof, but for the most part, it’s not a safe, comfortable place to hang out.
There are various solutions: keep the original word in italics and use a glossary or a footnote; add a little bit of detail to explain what the word means in context; try to find a cultural equivalent; or use a couple of words that explain the word briefly in the second language.
Here’s the original Spanish and my English translation:
Así que resignada, pasé otra vez una buena parte del día desarrugando mi vestido con el vapor del baño y el resto sentada en el balcón mirando las azoteas vecinas donde había gran trajín de señoras que lavaban ropa y la tendían al sol.
So, resigned, once again I spent a good part of the day smoothing out my dress with the steam from the bathroom and the rest of the day sitting on the balcony where I could see the neighboring rooftop patios where there were always women busy coming and going, washing clothes, and hanging them in the sun.
Fortunately, in the original there is a little bit of detail that shows what people, specifically women, do on the azotea, and that helps form a more complete image or idea in the reader’s mind. I’m not completely satisfied with “rooftop patios” but felt that “terrace” was a bit too fancy, and simply using “roof” was not sufficient. Hopefully those two words together will be enough for people who sleep under an A-frame roof.
Do you have any recent translation conundrums? Do you have a solution that you are especially proud of? We’d love to hear them!
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