Poor little Italy, not that magic after all. The official website for Italian Tourism is just tragic. Not that a few brave people didn’t try to point out a few strange things. It’s just that Italy proves itself to be the country where competent people are pushed in a corner. They might actually get things right. Considering the price taxpayers paid for the website – eight million euros – one might criticise the design as well as the copywriting, but today I’d just like to sum up the dreadful translation fails – not the least of problems, for a website which is supposed to promote Italy as a tourist destination worldwide.
Last February, a post appeared on ProZ. It was a translation agency looking for
new translators for a project commissioned by the ministry of tourism.
The ministry is sending us, and will keep sending us throughout 2010 material from the website www.italia.it that needs to be translated into french, german, and spanish. [all mistakes in the Italian original]
It went on, saying that the Ministry was prepared to pay €9 (gross, of course) for a 2600-character “page”, paid 90 days after the completion of the job. A Letter to Michela Vittoria Brambilla, the Minister of Tourism, published by some colleagues, pointed out that:
A professional translator who is good at their job can translate at the most 10-12 folders (1500-character pages) a day, which is about 6-7 of the Ministry’s 2600-character folders. Accepting this job then, would mean getting a maximum of €54-€63 a day, before taxes, which end up being an average of 25-30 euros after taxes. In other words, 9 euros for a 2600-character folder, after taking into account the difference in purchasing power, are about the same amount of money that a sweatshop worker in Indonesia gets. The minimum, considering the amount of effort and quality required, would have to be at least three times higher.
There’s not much to add to that. With each passing month, the terrible mistakes that were inevitable under these conditions, began to surface.
Even a famous Italian journalist, Vittorio Zucconi, wrote about this, although he did made a few rookie mistakes which a few clicks could have avoided. The comments to the post are particularly interesting.
From the point of view of a serious translator, Giornalettismo makes a big mistake, though, when it says
A native French speaker whom we showed the website said the problem is that “it is obvious that the website wasn’t written by a French speaker” – which is obvious and understandable – but nevertheless, “from a country like yours one would expect a better level of French”
Wait a minute. Obvious and understandable my arse, excuse my French. Are we able to find a native French speaker for the translation, or are we back to autarky already? Do we have any idea of how many native French speakers work as translators in our country? Let alone that it’s 2010 and it’s not hard to get them in France. Even if the Ministry chose to go through the worst agency ever, everyone knows that in most cases one should translate into their native language, otherwise – with the exception of rare case of bilingual or near-bilingual people – the translation won’t sound natural, and in the worst cases it will be full of calques and assorted horrors.
The amount of mistakes is unbelievable, really. Check out the website in your language, and let me know what funny fails you find. Remember, price of the website: eight million euros.
Despite all this, in the comment section of Un Po di Danubio, where the author painstakingly explains not only the situation, but the nature of the uncountable mistakes made, we can see a couple of masters in the ostrich technique, part of the silent majority of this sad country:
If you’re so good, why don’t you work as a translator for the ministry?
Magic Italy, indeed…