Short and Sweet

I like to be helpful to my clients and welcome their requests with open arms. But it can happen that the demands of good English force me to turn down a client’s request, as I did recently when I was asked to make my English translation closer in length to the Italian original to avoid awkward page layouts. As I translate documents in which the readability and flow of the English are particularly important (as opposed to, say, legal documents, which are meant to be unreadable in every language), my English translation is generally between 10% and 20% shorter than the Italian original. Part of this is just that English words are shorter on average than Italian ones, but a great deal of it is because good English values concision and shuns redundancy. Other factors making good English shorter include a preference for active sentence construction and using verbs instead of nouns.

I discuss some of these “cultural differences” between English and Italian elsewhere. Both to help my clients understand why there’s this difference and as a reference for my colleagues, here is a list of examples of possible translations with a much shorter character count. Of course, the choice of translation depends on many factors and in some contexts I might choose a wordier option.

Other pithy examples? Add in comments.

In questo locale è severamente vietato fumare No smoking
Il mese di febbraio February
Il colore rosso Red
Rappresenta Is
Il sopracitato architetto milanese He
Dedicato a For
Infatti, infine, invece, anche, inoltre
È della massima importanza It’s essential
È possibile Can
Ha permesso Let
Era reso possibile da Let
Cosiddetto “”
Dispone di Has
Estremamente Very
L’immobile che si trova all’indirizzo The property at
Basta pensare a e.g.,
Colgo l’occasione per porgere i miei più cordiali saluti Sincerely,
Contemporaneamente At once
Ha acquisito uno spessore maggiore Thickened
Procede a fare Does
Ma allo stesso tempo Yet
Modificati e alterati Altered
Metà del secondo decennio del Cinquecento circa Around 1525
Vi preghiamo di reggervi agli appositi sostegni Please hang on

2 Comments on “Short and Sweet”

  1. Italian is definitely more articulate than English, yet your list cannot be considered explicative. I am glad you clarified that these English translations are decontestualised, because many of them are not even to be considered translations at all.
    For example, “he” is not a translation of “il sopracitato architetto milanese”, but an omission you chose to operate on the source text. These cases happen when translating from English into Italian as well (or from any language into another, for that matter).
    Of course, “estremamente” can be translated as “very” but also as “extremely”, and “cosiddetto” can be omitted by using “” or translated as “so-called”, “rappresenta” can be either “is” and “represents” and so on..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: