What Are Syntactic or Structural Anglicisms in Spanish?

When analyzing a text in Spanish, regardless of whether it is a translation or not, the term “Anglicism” refers to those linguistic equivalencies that use a structure similar or identical to that of English in order to express concepts more naturally. There are Anglicisms of various types, although here those of a syntactic nature will be discussed, that is, those which imitate the structure of English.

Although the use of Anglicisms in Spanish is normally incorrect, since preference is being given to a term or phrase in English when its equivalent already exists in Spanish, in the following cases one can see that, despite the fact that the chosen structure or word is correct, its use is not common in Spanish. The problem here is based more on its frequency of use than on the construction itself. As we said before, this affects the naturalness and clarity of the text for the reader, giving it a strange flavor and a certain lack of authenticity.

The order of words tends to be affected by this phenomenon. Spanish is characterized as being rather “free” with regard to syntax. However, it is common to observe the insistent repetition of the pronouns yo, tú, él, etc. While in English the use of pronouns is required, in Spanish they are not necessary, and often times their use brings a shade of emphasis and stress on the subject. For example, the sentence “I study with John because he’s my friend” should be translated as “Estudio con John porque es mi amigo,” and not “Yo estudio con John porque él es mi amigo,” unless the intention is to create some type of contrast in a given context. Something similar happens with structures using the passive voice; if the verb is left at the end of the sentence, especially when the subject is very long or has figures and percentages, the style is altered and it is difficult to understand. “The productivity of rice lands can be raised” is less clear if it is translated as “La productividad de las tierras arroceras varía” than if it is translated “Existen variaciones en la productividad de las tierras arroceras.”

Let’s look at another case that is less known but just as interesting. The present progressive tense (composed of the verb “to be” plus a gerund) in English can refer to both the present (“I’m doing it now”) and the future (I’m doing it later). In Spanish, however, the duration of the action cannot be expressed in the same way, and the present progressive cannot be used with momentary or final action verbs, unless it is dealing with repeated actions. For example, it would be incorrect to say “Le estoy escribiendo esta carta a fin de…”; instead, the simple present (“le escribo”) must be used. The progressive could only be used in a sentence such as “Desde hace dos meses le estoy escribiendo para….” As you can see, although it requires more work, when translating into Spanish there are always better options available than mimicking structures that, while in English are very common and correct, in Spanish are not, due to the latter possessing other cultural-linguistic patterns.