From the official site of Italian World Cup soccer champion, Alessandro Del Piero

Excerpted from “Match of My Heart,” a description of a highly successful fund-raising effort:

“Big numbers aren’t always the sign of a big success, but I’m sure that this time the number speaks for itself: 747.469 euros, this is our result. And not only, it is … the result of the national singers team, that has been carrying out this project for years…. All this is the “La Partita Del Cuore” that I was lucky to play with my team “Ale+10”, a group of friends that let me live through the fantastic experience and didn’t spare themselves to reach all the targets. Today we have handed in the cheques to the associations that will take care of the raised funds [including] 100.000 euros to … Poggio Picenze, one of the mostly damaged by earthquake  in Abbruzzo places; 323.784 euros for the Mystic Park Foundation ONLUS, created to develop productive and promotional cultural center Equity and Solidarity Productive Camp, that will become the experimenting organisation to support politics for young people in Rome; and Adisco [which] supports the project of reconstruction and building up the Day Hospitals and medical offices in the Oncoematological Department of Children Hospital Regina Margherita in Turin, one of the first international centers, that carries out the research on diagnosis, therapy and studies of children tumors and leukaemia…. I want to ask you to keep up supporting Adisco project…. All I have to do is to thank you all again. Thank you, indeed…. I would like to ask you to keep up the beat of the heart, so don’t give up supporting this project.”

Comment: Del Piero’s commitment to social causes is laudable and the results of his fund-raising efforts are inspiring. Don’t such fine efforts deserve to be promoted in decent English?

When people ask me, “How can you be so sure a bad translation was done by an Italian and not by a native English speaker who just isn’t very good?” I use a translation like this one. The clues it contains are unmistakable. Here, for example, the translator doesn’t know that the decimal place in English is marked with a comma and not a period, as it is in Italian; and the translator doesn’t know that acronyms (ADISCO) are written in all caps in English and not solely with an initial cap, as in Italian. The translator doesn’t know when to insert articles and when to leave them out (“carries out the research on diagnosis,” “damaged by earthquake,” “keep up supporting Adisco project”) nor how to use possessives (“Children Hospital Regina Margherita”), a clear sign of a non-English speaker at work. Remarkably, the translator also doesn’t know that Abruzzo isn’t spelled with two Bs (in English or Italian).

Medical terminology is always tricky because Italians and Anglophones have extremely different ways of describing the same conditions, but anyone with a dictionary would know that “oncoematological” was not a word in English.

Then there are conceptual issues. “The national singers team,” e.g., means nothing without an explanation. The name of the organization, in fact, should never have been changed, and a proper translation would say something like “the Nazionale Italiana Cantanti (a non-profit squad composed of soccer-playing singers who perform to raise money for worthy causes),” etc. ONLUS is Italian acronym and makes no sense in English; the equivalent term is “non-profit.”

Finally, there are the out-and-out errors. “Support politics for young people” is a failed translation of a phrase that means “support policies that favor the young,” and “the friends who let me live” is simply a bad joke. “Studies of children tumors” is, obviously, “studies of tumors in children.” “Match of My Heart,” too, is problematic. “Partita del Cuore,” which is the title of the article in Italian, is tough to translate—it essentially means “the match that holds special meaning for me” or “the game in which I really play my heart out”—and the phrase works in Italian with the play on words in the last line (Del Piero says, essentially, “I hope you’ll help me keep that heart beating”). But a literal translation does not work here. There are any number of acceptable solutions, but one might be to change the title to “This Is A Game That Truly Takes Heart” and the last line to something like “I hope you’ll continue to donate to our efforts and keep the ‘Partita del Cuore’ as close to your heart as it is to mine.”


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3 Responses to From the official site of Italian World Cup soccer champion, Alessandro Del Piero

  1. Rob says:

    Hi Wendell,

    This is something I come across fairly regularly. Agencies often contact me and ask me to proofread or comment on a translation provided by another translator. The kind of cues you describe enable a seasoned translator to spot the work of a non-native a mile off. Many times, the agencies themselves seem rather surprised when I suggest that the translator was a non-native.

    • ProvenWrite says:

      Beautiful Rob … and then one wonders: If they couldn’t tell the difference between a native and a non-native, what kind of screening are they actually doing?

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