The Meaning of ‘Morfar’

Argentine Spanish is strewn with words and colorful phrases from Lunfardo, a rich vocabulary born on the streets of Buenos Aires in the second half of the 19th century. Now considered a fixture of the Spanish language in Argentina (especially in and around Buenos Aires) and Uruguay, linguists cite the use of Lunfardo as a defining characteristic of the Rioplatense dialect.

morfar - Lunfardo

In Lunfardo, the word “morfar” means to eat, especially in a hearty, voracious or gluttonous manner. Other possible informal English translations of the word include to get some grub, to get some chow, to chow down, to devour, to wolf down, to gobble (down) and to scarf (down).

In soccer (football) slang, morfar can also be used to indicate that a player hogs the ball.

It’s said that the verb “morfar” stemmed from the French slang word “morfer” meaning—not surprisingly—to eat, although it’s highly likely that both the French and Lunfardo terms arose from the Italian dialect word “morfa,” meaning mouth.

Related words in Lunfardo:
noun morfi: food, grub, chow
noun morfón: glutton, pig, hog

Usage example: Ese chabón es un morfón, se queda con la pelota. // That guy’s a ball hog. He keeps the ball for himself. (He never passes the ball.)

Éstos van en limusina y no tienen para morfar. // These guys ride around in a limo, but they’ve got nothing to eat.

The song Yira yira by the popular 90s Argentine rock band Los Piojos features the word “morfar” in the lyrics.

Cuando rajés los tamangos
buscando ese mango
que te haga morfar
la indiferencia del mundo
que es sordo y es mudo
recién sentirás.

Verás que todo es mentira
verás que nada es amor
que al mundo nada le importa
yira, yira…

Aunque te quiebre la vida
aunque te muerda un dolor
no esperes nunca una mano
ni una ayuda ni un favor.

Languages Create Opportunities for Understanding

While learning two or even three languages at a young age is a given for many children in other parts of the world, most American children are never exposed to a second language, let alone a third. While the United States historically has opened its arms to immigrants and their unique cultures, in recent decades, attitudes have shifted to reflect a more nationalistic stance and close-minded view toward other cultures and their languages. Simultaneously, the English language has grown in prominence, and many Americans fail to see the importance of learning another language.

In fact, as recently as 2003, a Nebraska judge ordered a Hispanic father to speak English, rather than Spanish,  to his 5-year-old daughter or face a loss of visitation rights. This case clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of bilingualism and ignorance regarding the fact that speaking two or more languages clearly enriches a child’s life. As writer Sally Thomason notes, “The child’s welfare will be unaffected, except of course that she will miss a valuable opportunity to exercise her mind and enhance her humanity by learning a second language.”[1]

With regular, casual practice, a second language is not so hard to acquire—especially at a young age. Knowledge of a language other than our mother tongue exposes us to new information and provides a deeper understanding and awareness of different cultures. We also sharpen our cognitive abilities, as learning and speaking a foreign language engages our brain’s higher-level functions.

We’re doing our children a disservice by ignoring the importance of learning a second language and appreciating other cultures. Knowing another language opens our minds and creates opportunities for understanding. Thankfully, it’s never too late for the United States to start valuing and promoting the study of foreign languages.

For further discussion of this topic, visit Post Crescent.


Hispanics Reluctant to Participate in Clinical Research Trials

According to the latest demographic information culled from the 2010 U.S. Census, the Hispanic population now constitutes roughly 16% of the nation’s inhabitants, yet Hispanics’ participation in clinical research studies ranks disproportionately low in comparison to their overall percentage of the population. Every year, some 260,000 Americans volunteer to take part in medical research studies; however, Latinos represent less than five percent of those who participate. Given that demographers expect the U.S. Latino population to triple by the year 2050, researchers must take steps to get Hispanics actively involved in clinical studies by pinpointing barriers that prevent Latinos from participating in research and developing strategies to increase this population’s access to and representation in medical research.

A diverse sample of participants is of great importance to investigators because some ethnic groups react differently to certain medications and therapeutic interventions. A lack of participation by minority groups in clinical trials leaves populations open to potential unexpected side effects. Regardless of whether ethnicity influences the effectiveness of a specific medication or treatment, clinical researchers must be sure they have thoroughly evaluated the possibility before moving on to the next phase of their research.

Why Don’t Hispanics Participate in Medical Research?

A number of reasons for Latinos’ low participation rates in clinical studies have been cited by researchers:

  • Hispanic patients and their caregivers generally have little understanding of what is involved in a clinical trial. In addition, limited information tailored specifically to the Hispanic community about clinical research studies exists.
  • Latinos are often fearful of new drugs or treatments, and they are wary of being used as guinea pigs.
  • Many Hispanic patients stated they would not take part in medical research due to psychological reasons such as depression or denial (i.e. if they don’t participate in the clinical trial, they don’t have to face their illness).
  • Many Latinos also expressed concern about the costs entailed by the treatment(s) they would receive as part of the study.

How to Increase Participation by Hispanics in Clinical Trials

Community outreach and education about clinical research trials are vital to increasing participation rates among Latinos. Ideally, physicians—who’ve already successfully established a relationship of trust with their patients—should be the ones to initially present the idea of taking part in a clinical research study. The doctor can act as a resource for Hispanic patients who tend to have limited information about this treatment option.

It’s important to translate brochures, clinical documentation and consent forms into Spanish in a culturally appropriate manner to help improve understanding among potential study participants. People will feel more comfortable if they’re offered literature in the language that feels most familiar to them. Studies show that participants also demonstrate greater willingness to participate in clinical trials if the researchers—regardless of their ethnicity—speak Spanish.

Lastly, Latinos usually demonstrate greater willingness to participate in research studies if they receive a direct health benefit (for example, free blood pressure or diabetes screenings), if they see a measurable benefit to the Hispanic community, and if they can participate in the study on weekends rather than during the workweek.

Translating for Non-profits

Non-profit organizations and NGOs focus on improving the lives of others through diverse initiatives targeted at issues such as housing, social welfare, the environment, health care, education and human rights. These organizations typically require translation services to effectively explain their vision to a global audience, carry out their campaigns and fundraising efforts, and to communicate with those whom their programs benefit and serve. The social impact of materials translated for non-profit organizations must be carefully considered, along with the fact that virtually all agencies of this type function under budgetary constraints.

In the United States alone, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of non-profit organizations taking action to better the lives of the Latino community through their programs and initiatives. Non-profit organizations aimed at serving Hispanics are particularly vital to recent immigrants, who benefit from assistance without the difficulty of the language and culture barrier. Some of the largest non-profits devoted to the U.S. Hispanic community include the ASPIRA Association, Hispanic Housing Development Corp., the National Council of La Raza, and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

Non-profit agencies are particularly involved in South America, with many organizations choosing to focus on Brazil. The non-profit sector in Brazil is expanding, with U.S. companies such as Walmart supporting philanthropic activities in Brazil as a means to establish a presence in this fast-growing, influential economy. It’s essential for Brazilian non-profit organizations looking to solicit donations from corporate entities and foundations abroad to translate their materials from Portuguese.

A non-profit organization in its initial stages may have little to no budget for translation services. In this case, non-profits will sometimes connect with student translators or linguists just starting their careers who are in need of “résumé builders.” Experienced translators – who are likelier to turn out a high quality translation – often work for more established NGOs or non-profit agencies at reduced rates, as a way to give something back to the community.

If you’re a representative of a non-profit organization or NGO, click here to learn more about Transpanish’s discounted translation rate for non-profits.

Related articles:
Translations for Non-profits in a Bad Economy
Latinos and the Non-profit sector

Hispanic Employees in the Workplace

Hispanic participation in the workplace continues to grow, with Latino workers accounting for 15% of the U.S. workforce in 2010, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics. Latinos are projected to make up 18% of the total American workforce by 2018. Working in industries such as construction, manufacturing, hospitality, and agriculture, Latinos make an important contribution to the U.S. economy.

Although one can safely generalize to a certain degree about Hispanic culture, employers must recognize that Spanish-speaking workers hail from a number of different countries, each with its own culture and norms. Employers who make the effort to personally connect with their Hispanic employees, showing that they are valued and respected, will reap benefits in the end.

One way that employers, particularly supervisors, can demonstrate their commitment to Hispanic workers is by taking the time to learn basic Spanish. When communicating with employees, it is best to avoid the use of slang words, since their meanings can vary widely from country to country. In addition, employers should take care when using hand gestures, as they can sometimes be misinterpreted by those coming from a different cultural background.

Employers should be wary of imposing discriminatory language policies on Latino employees. Valuing Hispanic workers’ culture and the Spanish language builds an atmosphere of respect between employer and employees, rather than one of inferiority and isolation. Employees should be allowed to speak Spanish at work, particularly while on break. By refusing Latino employees the right to communicate in Spanish, employers deny them the ability to express their cultural heritage on the job.

According to the report “The Hispanic Labor Force in the Recovery,” in 2009 Hispanic workers experienced the highest rate of work-related fatal injuries at 3.7 incidents per 100,000 full time equivalent workers, compared to 3.4 for whites and 3.0 for blacks.” In light of this statistic, the availability of Spanish-language materials for Hispanic employees, including manuals, handbooks, and safety information should be a top priority for employers.

Due to the language barrier, literacy and other limitations, Hispanic workers are sometimes more difficult to reach through traditional means of communication. Hence, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires employers to present information concerning workers’ rights, safety and health training materials, information and instructions in a language that employees can understand. Materials should be translated by a professional Spanish translation service – not just a bilingual employee – and it is best to use neutral Spanish, as terminology often differs from one country to another.

Additionally, Latino workers respond well to training conducted in person, with ample use of visual aids. In situations where large amounts of complex verbal information must be relayed to employees (e.g. training sessions, safety meetings), consider hiring a Spanish interpreter to ensure maximum comprehension.

With ethnic diversity and the inclusion of Latinos in the American workplace part of the new reality, the business community, workplace trainers and human resource personnel must develop an improved understanding of and sensitivity to language barriers and cultural differences. In the end, these efforts will enable businesses to stay competitive by supporting a productive, stable and safe workforce.

1The Hispanic Labor Force in the Recovery, United States Department of Labor

Related Articles
Making Safety a Priority for All Employees: How Translations Can Help

Target an Audience of 650 Million with Spanish and Portuguese Translations

As the competition in the global marketplace heats up, companies without a strategy for connecting with customers worldwide face a strong possibility of getting left behind. Savvy companies and organizations stand to capture upwards of a combined 650 million potential customers by incorporating Spanish and Portuguese translation into their business strategy. As the influence and economic power of emerging Spanish and Portuguese-speaking markets continues to grow, companies that invest in high-quality translations to target this audience will see dividends.

Spanish is the most widely spoken of the Romance languages, both in terms of the number of speakers and the number of countries in which it is the dominant language. With approximately 400 million native speakers worldwide, Spanish is currently the second most widely spoken language overall. At present, Portuguese ranks sixth among the world’s major languages, with some 250 million native speakers around the world. Portuguese and Spanish are both recognized by UNESCO as the fastest growing of the European languages.

Why Spanish Translation?

The expanding presence of the Spanish language coupled with increased Latino buying power has cemented the Hispanic demographic’s influence in the United States. U.S. Latinos‘ buying power is expected to reach $1 trillion this year. Given the Hispanic market’s incredible growth, size, and increasing purchasing power, businesses and organizations cannot afford to overlook this segment of the population.

As the emerging markets of Latin America, particularly Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Peru, gain a stronger foothold, they become increasingly attractive sources of new clientele for those businesses looking to target new audiences. A well-crafted, Spanish translation done by a professional translator will help corporations and organizations communicate with the Hispanic community, both at home and abroad, to take advantage of the business opportunities provided by these rapidly expanding markets.

Why Portuguese Translation?

Over the last twenty years, Brazil has steadily grown to become Latin America’s largest economy. With a robust economic outlook and a population of about 190 million people, companies can no longer ignore Brazil. Given the country’s strong, stable currency and a growing middle class with a hunger for imported goods, reaching the Brazilian market appears to be more crucial than ever before for businesses. Although Brazil is the sole Portuguese-speaking country in the Americas, approximately one-half of South America’s inhabitants speak the language. In today’s global economy, it pays to be able to communicate effectively with the Portuguese-speaking population.

Brazil also expects a significant tourism boost over the next few years as the country plays host to two major international sporting events: the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Translation from Portuguese to a host of other languages will be necessary to accommodate the scores of foreign athletes, tourists and journalists who will descend upon Brazil for these events.

Translate for the Spanish and Portuguese markets to extend your business’ or organization’s reach, and connect with everyone from the customers right in your backyard to those in the far-flung corners of Latin America.

Are you looking for a Portuguese Translator? Visit TransPortuguese.
Are you looking for a Spanish Translator? Visit Transpanish.

Dirae: The Latest Tool to Search for Terms in Spanish

Spanish speakers and students of the Spanish language now have one more handy tool at their disposal. The Real Academia Española (RAE) – the official institution responsible for policing the Spanish language – recently released the online tool known as Dirae, based on the RAE’s Diccionario de la lengua española (Spanish language dictionary). Unlike traditional dictionaries, Dirae functions as a reverse dictionary, enabling users to find words based on a set of general concepts.

Using carefully chosen search terms, Dirae also functions as an associative thesaurus, etymological search tool, and synonym finder. For example, by entering the search terms “‘del quechua’ maíz,” the tool will return Spanish words etymologically based in the Quechua language that are related to corn. Read more about this new tool and view examples of its use here [in Spanish].

Related Posts:
New Spanish Spelling Reforms from the RAE
New Inclusive Grammar Guidelines from the Real Academia Española

Lunfardo: Money Talk

Argentine Spanish is strewn with words and colorful phrases from Lunfardo, a rich vocabulary born on the streets of Buenos Aires in the second half of the 19th century. Now considered a fixture of the Spanish language in Argentina (especially in and around Buenos Aires) and Uruguay, linguists cite the use of Lunfardo as a defining characteristic of the Rioplatense dialect. Add a dash of Argentine flavor to your Spanish vocabulary with the Transpanish blog’s ongoing feature highlighting some of the most frequently used terms in Lunfardo.

While Lunfardo features a number of words to refer to money in general, it also employs several terms to describe specific currency denominations.

Term Meaning
guita one cent [also used as a general term for money]
mango one peso
diego [considered a non-standard term by Lunfardo purists] ten pesos
gamba one hundred pesos
luca one thousand pesos
palo one million pesos

Unless otherwise specified, these terms always denote Argentine legal tender. If the speaker wishes to refer to a foreign currency, there are special terms that are affixed to the quantity. For example, verde is used in reference to U.S. dollars (e.g. 5 gambas verdes = 500 dollars). Speakers tack on euro after the quantity if discussing euros, the currency of the European Union (e.g. 10 lucas euros = 10,000 euros).

In addition, it’s best to use the term for the largest quantity applicable, i.e. 20 palos instead of 20,000,000 mangos or 20,000 lucas to express the sum of 20 million pesos.

Marketing to Latinos through Social Media

In the past, marketing strategists rarely targeted Hispanics through social media or other forms of digital marketing. However, according to the latest research studies, companies have slowly come around to the idea of wooing the Latino population through social media campaigns, and with good reason.

The total number of Hispanics logging on to the Internet shot up 16% over the past year. During that same period, the Hispanic presence on Facebook almost tripled, bringing the total number of users on the social networking giant to some 22 million as of March 2011. Additionally, Latinos demonstrate active usage of the service, with Hispanics averaging 29 minutes per week on Facebook versus non-Hispanic whites who visit the site for 19 minutes.

In terms of Twitter, social media’s other darling, a study conducted last fall found that 18% of Hispanic respondents who go online have a Twitter account, versus 13% of non-Hispanic blacks and 5% of non-Hispanic whites. In fact, Latinos constitute the largest ethnic group on Twitter.

While it’s obvious that Latinos have caught social media fever, as marketing expert Gustavo Razzetti notes, “…There’s a huge gap between Latinos’ usage of Facebook and real engagement with brands through their Spanish pages.”[1]

So, how do marketers take advantage of Latinos’ growing presence in social media to promote their brands?

Marketers must realize that an effective social media campaign directed at the Latino segment will involve more than just a mere translation of the existing English-language campaign. Hispanics are eager to connect with content and engage in a dialog with their favorite brands, so companies should provide opportunities for consumers to interact bilingually or in their preferred language. In addition, they must consider how the English-language and Spanish-language pages can complement each other and create synergy, rather than just duplicating the message in another language, since many users will likely visit both pages if companies offer unique content.

Although Twitter offers a different format for customer engagement, the keys to successful corporate marketing on Twitter are to 1) jump in on existing conversations that are taking place within the Latino community to develop brand awareness and 2) get consumers to join in on the conversation about the company’s brand. Live chats on Twitter also provide sponsorship opportunities that may prove attractive to advertisers.

[1] Latinos and Facebook: The Marketing Gap by Gustavo Razzetti


2010 U.S. Census Data Reveals Continued Growth of Hispanic Population

According to the latest demographic information culled from the 2010 U.S. Census, the Latino population now totals 16.3% of the nation’s inhabitants. The Hispanic population increased 43% over the last ten years, growing from 35.3 million to 50.5 million. Demographers also reported that 56% of the country’s total population expansion in the last decade can be attributed to Latinos.

Even though the Latino population’s growth in raw numbers over the last ten years exceeded totals from previous decades, in terms of the growth rate percentage, the Hispanic population increased more slowly than in years past. For example, the Latino population saw growth rates exceeding 50% in the 1980s and 1990s; however, the first decade of the 21st century witnessed a slightly more modest 43% increase in the number of U.S. Hispanics.

Hispanics, who may self-identify with any race or ethnicity, constitute the country’s largest minority group. By race, 53% of Latinos – 26.7 million people – identified themselves as white only. The next biggest group, 36.7% (18.5 million) of Latinos, identified themselves as “some other race.” A further 6% endorsed multiple races/ethnicities.

In terms of geographic distribution, the majority of the Latino population remains in nine states with significant, established Hispanic communities: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York and Texas. The trend over the last decade, however, is one of dispersion, with the percentage of Latinos living in other states on the rise.

Southeast states including Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina registered some of the most impressive growth in the Latino population. Maryland and South Dakota also saw their Hispanic populations double over the last decade.

In six states – Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island – an increase in the number of Latinos constituted all of those states’ population growth. In the event that the Latino population had not multiplied, those states would have seen negative growth.

The census count of the U.S. Latino population was slightly higher than anticipated. The 2010 Census results for Hispanics yielded 955,000 more people than the Census Bureau had estimated for this segment of the population.

Source: The Pew Hispanic Center