English to Italian Translation Challenges

By Sarah-Claire Jordan

English to Italian Translation Challenges photoTranslation is no easy task no matter what language pair is involved. However, each pair does have specific and generally unique challenges that translators must deal with. When it comes to translating from English into Italian, there are some things that translators need to keep in mind. Of course, if they are seasoned and professional translators, these aren’t be issues but simply annoyances that must be dealt with.

The first challenge that English-to-Italian translators face is the fact that they belong to two different language groups. Italian is part of the Romance language group, which includes Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Romanian, among others. English is a Germanic language, meaning it is more closely related to languages like German, Dutch, and Danish, for example, than Italian. The two languages do share a language family, which both the Germanic and Romance languages belong to: the Indo-European language family.

However, that particular language family is very large and general, encompassing groups of languages spoken in Europe as well as many parts of Asia. Grammar plays a huge role in the differences that make translating English text into Italian a bit difficult at times. Italian grammar is based very much on Latin grammar, just like most Romance languages. Word order and sentence structure is a bit more flexible, but there are still rules that need to be followed. If they aren’t followed, the translated text won’t seem credible.

Italian has gendered nouns, which then influence the adjectives and definite articles that go along with those nouns. This can be a bit tricky at times, since English nouns have no gender, and adjectives do not change based on the noun they are describing. In English, many times the definite articles (“the” and “a”, for example) are not needed to get the point across, whereas in Italian they are needed when talking about nouns as general concepts, like when one talks about houses in general, for example. The definite article changes depending on whether the noun that follows it begins with a consonant or a vowel. A knowledgeable and experienced translator will have no problems with this, of course.

Another thing to keep in mind when translating from English into Italian is that, though there are no letters in the Italian alphabet that do not exist in the English one, some of the letters in the English alphabet are not used. These letters are j, k, w, x, and y, and are only used when a foreign word needs to be used in Italian. Otherwise they have no place in the Italian language and should not be used.

The last challenge that English-to-Italian translators have to be prepared to deal with is the sheer number of different dialects of Italian used in Italy. There are about five different dialect groups, some of which can be further divided into subgroups. A good translator would be familiar with all of these dialects and know which one they would need to translate into, if it needs to be translated into a dialect other than Standard Italian.

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Category: Foreign Language

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