People are usually eager to hear those three little words: I love you. This may apply to everyone except for Spanish translators. In English, there’s a huge gap from “I like you” to “I love you”. In the process, you might hear “I care about you”, “I like you a lot”, “You’re important to me” and a bunch of other phrases that mean more than like but a lot less than love.
When it comes to Spanish, a translator working on subtitles for a movie or a book translation has two options: “te quiero” or “te amo”. The first is what dog owners say to their pets when they scratch their bellies. It’s what best friends say to each other and it’s also what couples usually say in the early stage of the relationship. “Te quiero” can also literally be translated as “I want you” in English. Nonetheless, it is not as powerful as saying “te amo”. You reserve those words for your family members, someone you’re falling for or for your husband/wife. This is, of course, according to me. But each translator decides which term to use when working on a particular project.
I turned to Google to find out how P.S. I Love You, a romantic flick, is titled in Spanish. Even before I pressed enter it seemed like the problem is not just one that baffles me.
It also reminded me about another movie. In Love and Other Drugs (Amor y otras adicciones), one of the characters confesses he is in love. He declares it’s the first time he has ever said it to anyone since he never even said it to his family members. In that scene, it seems like the powerful words even cause him to have a panic attack. His love interest doesn’t say it back, but she does admit to having said it once to a cat before. The subtitles in Spanish, at least in the version I saw, were “te quiero”. I felt that due to the context, the seriousness of saying those words for the first time in a lifetime would only be justified with “te amo”.
What do you think? I love you = Is it te amo or te quiero?