In The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, they attempt to find a place to live for Fermín Romero de Torres, a former street beggar with a great mind, who they hire to help them find the books that their customers request.

In the English version of the text, they continue to use the Spanish word 'pensión', even though they could easily translate that to English. Most people reading the book probably don't have even a basic level of Spanish. Why did the translator decide to leave 'pensión' untranslated?


2 Answers 2


Probably because a pensión, (or pension in English) is a type of boarding house which possibly does not have an adequate word in English. A typical pensión, while appearing like a "bed and breakfast", will serve all three meals of the day. They are (were?) popular with ex-patriates throughout Continental Europe, some parts of Africa such as Morocco, and also South America.

They usually offer variable plans including full-board plus "tea", or the "half", which does not include lunch.

Other novels based in a pensión include A Room with a View (1907), and Miramar (1967)


As Cascabel rightly says, there is no direct equivalent to a Pension in Britain - in terms of the particular facilities provided.

As mentioned, this is not the only work in which Pension is not translated, either from Spanish or from French.

Translation to, for example, Bed & Breakfast would carry connotations to a British reader that are not intended by the original author. Also, many British people are aware of what a Pension provides through visiting Europe as a tourist.

The word is best left untranslated.

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