16

Red flags are literally used to signal a problem and it can also be used as a metaphor to convey that the is a particular problem required attention or something that needs to be taken into account, or signals something problematic that needs attention.

For example (from a quick search on the Internet):

Controlling behavior is a red flag in a relationship. "[...] these people or simply feel the need to control where you go and who you associate with, limiting your world to allow in only what is important to them". From 10 Relationship Red Flags

Rudeness in a job interview is a red flag. "Rudeness is a pretty simple red flag to spot. It can come in a couple of different guises though...". From The 8 Biggest Interview Red Flags

If you are trying to hire a contractor and they ask for too much money upfront, that is a red flag. "[...] a contractor who asks for more than 15% upfront should elicit an uh-oh feeling." From Beware of These 8 Red Flags When Hiring a Contractor

I doubt that the literal translation, "bandera roja" is used in Spanish (never heard of it), but it could be the case.

Si un contratista te pide demasiado dinero por adelantado, eso es una bandera roja.

Si tu pareja te controla los mensajes del teléfono y el email, eso es una bandera roja en la relación.

How do you translate the idiom "red flag" into Spanish?

  • 3
    ¿Qué tal señal del advertencia o de peligro? – DGaleano Apr 23 at 13:42
  • 3
    señal de alarma? – ukemi Apr 23 at 13:46
  • I would say "señal de alarma" or "señal de aviso", but maybe you want an Spanish expression that figuratively conveys the same meaning as "red flag" does? – Charlie Apr 23 at 14:05
  • 1
    ¿Qué tal ‘indicadores de alerta? – Traveller Apr 23 at 14:35
  • 1
    Otro de los significados que puede aplicarse a red flag es "línea roja". – Aracem Apr 24 at 9:23
21

TL;DR: Red flag == Mala señal

Spaniard here!

The metaphorical use of "red flag" is an English idiom. Usually, you don't want to translate an idiom (and you should never translate them literally, although it's a common practice), you just interpret its meaning and build a new sentence that conveys the same or similar meaning. So, definitely, no "banderas rojas" here.

As I see it, you have 2 alternatives:

1- Just keep the meaning and discard the idea of "idiom" altogether, in which case expressions such as the suggested "señal de alerta" would be appropriate. However, a more direct translation in my opinion would be "mala señal". But it's not exactly an idiom, you are just saying that it's a signal and that it's bad.

  • Un comportamiento controlador es una mala señal en una relación.*

2- Keep the meaning plus the notion of using an idiom to convey said meaning. In this case, you need a Spanish idiom to do the same job. The problem is, AFAIK, this particular idiom doesn't exist in (peninsular) Spanish, and you need rebuild the sentence from scratch.

Possible candidates to use in this second case would be:

  • Cuidado con los candidatos que se muestran maleducados durante la entrevista.
  • Mucho ojo con los contratistas que quieren cobrar demasiado por adelantado.

Please note that these idioms are somewhat informal in Spanish. However, if you want to be extra informal, try something like "Al loro con los contratistas (...)".

*Note: "Controlling behavior" can have 2 meanings in English, "controlling" can work as an adjective or as a verb. I assume the former for this translation.

  • 2
    La idea de una bandera roja en inglés es algo mucho más grave que decir mala señal. Son indicios que efectivamente obligan atención inmediata (normalmente para terminar/abortar/dejar lo que, digamos, ha izada la bandera). Para mí una mala señal no es tan grave que para mí sería una traducción óptima de warning flag/sign – user0721090601 Apr 23 at 18:38
  • 1
    "and you should never translate them literally" Although there are occasional exceptions, such as "la quinta columna". – Acccumulation Apr 23 at 18:43
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    @guifa - Red flags, nowadays, can be things to watch for, that tell you to dig a little deeper, or continue observing carefully. – aparente001 Apr 23 at 20:47
  • 1
    @aparente001 that is a new meaning for me. And I'm not that old lol – user0721090601 Apr 23 at 20:49
  • 3
    The negative connotations (or otherwise) in the use of "flag" seems to be in flux in general. We have (fifteen yer old) software which just uses "flag" (no "red") and just recently a considerable number of users have reported confusion through assuming these were necessarily negative indications, not mere alerts, even if, for example coloured green or using positive words. We (accidentally) have good evidence over that timescale that this is a real shift, and that it's pretty global through Englishes. I suspect social networks using the word for inappropriate or illegal content is a driver. – Dannie Apr 24 at 9:59
7

Concuerdo con los comentarios, que señal de alarma/advertencia/peligro/etc es una buena traducción si se tiene que traducir de forma general.

Eso dicho, en contextos concretos, también sería posible emplear algún sustantivo más el adjetivo alarmante:

  • Si tu pareja te controla los mensajes del teléfono y el email, eso es un comportamiento alarmante en la relación.
  • La descortesía en una entrevista es una actitud alarmante
  • Es (una práctica) alarmante que un contratista te pida demasiado dinero por adelantado.
  • I like alarmante for those cases where it's a pretty serious red flag. Very nice. – aparente001 Apr 23 at 20:49
5

Traducir como "alerta roja".

A su consideración el siguiente ejemplo real práctico:
En Colombia la entidad que observa e informa sobre el clima, (conocida como IDEAM "Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales") usa colores para indicar el nivel de riesgo de un evento, como el aumento del nivel de un río:

"alerta amarilla" nivel bajo, el nivel del río está subiendo y se debe seguir monitoreando, advertir a la población.

"alerta naranja" nivel medio, el nivel del río está llegando a su cota máxima; se advierte a los residentes próximos al río que deben desalojar.

"alerta roja" nivel alto, el río empezó a desbordarse o se desbordó; situación de máxima criticidad y se declara calamidad natural.

  • 1
    Yo también había pensado en la expresión "alerta roja", pero no veía cómo aplicarla a los ejemplos, dado que "la descortesía en una entrevista es una alerta roja" no me suena bien. Creo que lo mejor sería combinar lo de "señal de alarma" y "alerta roja" en "señal de alerta roja", así: "la descortesía en una entrevista es una señal de alerta roja". – Charlie Apr 23 at 14:16
5

In México the phrase "focos rojos" (red lightbulbs) is quite common and the sense is identical: to raise a red flag = prender focos rojos (to light red lightbulbs), like an alarm or stop sign.

Controlling behavior is a red flag in a relationship = Una actitud controladora es un foco rojo en una relación.
Rudeness in a job interview is a red flag = La descortesía ... es un foco rojo.

Like the others said, "mala señal" could also be used but it's not the same metaphorically. Also related are:

  • mal presagio / mal augurio (bad omen):

    Un gato negro cruzó mi camino, eso es un mal presagio = A black cat crossed my path, that is a bad omen.

  • mal indicio (bad sign), meaning the outcome of a situation doesn't seem favorable based on the actual conditions:

    Las nubes grises son un mal indicio del clima = The weather is not looking good because of the black clouds.
    La flojera es un mal indicio para la productividad = Laziness is a bad sign for productivity.

  • tener un mal presentimiento (having a bad feeling)

  • The expression luz roja can also be used with the same meaning as focos rojos – Krauss Apr 30 at 12:55
2

We can understand the expression red flag as the Spanish expression línea roja.

A línea roja is something that, when commit it, breaks a relation/contract/agreement. Something that is intolerable.

Esos comportamientos deberían hacer que la relación se rompa

Los comportamientos controladores son un una línea roja en una relación

Otra expresión que se puede encontrar en debates políticos:

Negociar con los nacionalistas es una línea roja que mi partido no va a tolerar

1

Una expresión que ahora se está poniendo de moda es la de cruzar una línea roja. Con esta expresión se mantendría el toque de rojo de la expresión original. El sentido sería el de haber traspasado un umbral de no retorno.

Los ejemplos quedarían así:

  • Ser descortés en una entrevista es cruzar una línea roja.
  • Controlar el comportamiento en una relación es cruzar una línea roja.

Y el titulo del artículo quedaría así:

  • Diez líneas rojas que no se deben cruzar en una relación.
  • 2
    "Red flag", en inglés, se usa hoy día para la posibilidad nomás de un problema. – aparente001 Apr 23 at 20:45
  • 1
    Yo es lo primero que había pensado pero luego me pareció que no era lo mismo, red flag es una señal, una advertecia de que algo no va bien y hay que actuar, en cambio cuando se cruza una línea roja ya no hay vuelta atrás, se ha sobrepasado un límite y no puedes hacer nada para arreglarlo – blonfu Apr 25 at 6:30
1

I don't think that finding an equivalent for red flag by itself is going to give us what we need. In practice we need a whole expression, such as raise a red flag, or (such and so) is a red flag (for something). Linguee.com has a bunch of creative ideas (which I suggest you take a look at), including alerta, señal sobre los riesgos, llamada de alerta, señal de alarma and also the verb alertar which I like a lot, e.g.

Esto nos alerta a la posibilidad de una fuga.

Here's what I usually use. Sometimes my son and I discuss which of his acquaintances are trustworthy and which aren't. He had just described something contradictory a person had done or said.

Eso no es un buen indicio.

From the context, it was clear that I meant, That is a red flag for untrustworthiness.

I could also say, "Eso es un mal indicio," and that would be a slightly higher level of concern. It's good to have different levels of red flag in one's repertoire.

0

Taking all the comments together with the usage I have heard it is clear that red flag has different meanings for different people. Perhaps these are generational differences or dialectal differences. Just to clarify, my answer therefore refers to the dialect spoken in the southeast of England by people born several decades ago.

For me the metaphorical meaning of red flag is close to its literal usage as a stop signal. An example of this literal use is current in Formula 1 car racing where a red flag is used to stop the race after an accident. The use of a sequence of colours to indicate severity of warning is common to both English and Spanish. Weather warnings in both countries go from yellow (the least serious) through amber (naranja) to red (the most serious). Many other warnings use the same system.

So I would have chosen alerta roja or possibly linea roja depending on the context.

And of course we still remember the famous Red Flag Act which required a person to precede motorised vehicles carrying a red flag to warn other road users of the approach of the vehicle.

  • We do? (Still remember the Red Flag Act?) // Does your red flag fit Diego's examples? Could you show one or two examples of usage? – aparente001 Apr 30 at 4:04
  • @aparente001 the "we" referred to the same people as mentioned in the last sentence of the first paragraph. I try to specify the dialect which I use when variations appear likely (as here). – mdewey Apr 30 at 10:06

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