Mistranslation Confuses Italian Youth

A language translation error in the Italian edition of a Catholic book aimed at young people made it look like the Vatican had changed its mind about birth control, reversing centuries of church policy. The book had to be temporarily pulled from the shelves while the publishers corrected the error, lest young Italian Catholic couples think they had been given license to practice contraception.

The book, YouCat, uses a question-and-answer format to give young adult readers guidance on Church teachings. One question deals with the traditionally thorny issue of family planning. According to, when this particular question-and-answer couplet was translated, the Italian phrase “metodi anticoncezionali” was used as a translation for the German phrase “Empfngnisregelung”. Read more

Italian University To Go English-Only

The Politecnico di Milano, an Italian university that’s known throughout the world for its architectural and engineering programs, just made a surprising announcement: starting in 2014, most degree programs will be offered in English only. No Italian.

Why would an Italian school move to an English-only policy? In an interview with the BBC, the school’s rector, Giovanni Azzone, explained that he believed the school had no choice if it wanted to stay competitive worldwide:

“We strongly believe our classes should be international classes – and the only way to have international classes is to use the English language… It’s very important for our students not only to have very good technical skills, but also to work in an international environment.”

The school wants to be able to attract students from the US and the UK, as well as from India and Asian countries where English is a common second language. He continued, “We are very proud of our city and culture, but we acknowledge that the Italian language is an entry barrier for overseas students.”

Learning English as a second language can open up doors, and some of the Italian students interviewed by the BBC approved of the idea because it would give them a chance to improve their English proficiency via immersion, without having to leave the country. Other teachers and students were concerned that the quality of instruction would suffer once everyone had to switch to a foreign language.

Professor Emilio Matricciani, who has started a petition against the decision, explained:

“Speaking Italian to our countrymen is like watching a movie in colour, high definition, very clear pictures. On the contrary, speaking English to them, even with our best effort, is, on the average, like watching a movie in black and white, with very poor definition, with blurred pictures.”

What do you think? Is it right for a public university to adopt another country’s language? If all the degrees are in English, will students who travel there to study be missing out on the chance to experience the local culture?

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In Italy’s South Tyrol, German Trail Signs Cause Controversy

The Italian province of South Tyrol has always been a land apart. Originally part of Austria-Hungary, the province only became part of Italy in 1919, after World War I ended.

Since then, the inhabitants, most of whom speak a dialect of German, have often been made to feel that they don’t “fit in” in their own country. For example, when the Fascists ruled Italy, the government made a concerted effort to ban public use of the German language in the region, and to encourage Italian speakers to immigrate and “crowd out” South Tyrol’s original inhabitants. Things got better after the end of World War II, when strong protections for German language speakers were made law and the province was granted a large degree of autonomy. Read more

The Huffington Post, Now in Italian

American news aggregation and blogging giant The Huffington Post expanded into Italy this week, with an Italian-language edition featuring custom content.

In a post on the main Huffington Post website, Arianna Huffington wrote that the company’s desire to expand into Italy came from a deep appreciation for Italian culture as well as a desire to chronicle the ongoing effects of the global financial crisis:

“Italy is still feeling the effects of the global economic meltdown, and L’HuffPost will be obsessively reporting the day-to-day human consequences of the crisis and putting flesh and blood on the data.”

“L’Huffington Post,” as the Italian edition will be called, will be utilizing a mix of bloggers, freelance journalists and experienced Italian journalists. The site will be overseen by Lucia Annunziata, formerly of Italian newspapers la Repubblica and Corriere della Sera.

The new site launched with an interview with former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Interviews with opposing politicians were included as well, but most of the spotlight was, unsurprisingly, on Mr. Berlusconi’s attempt to brush off longstanding allegations of sexual impropriety as “disinformation and defamation.”

While Huffpo was no doubt ecstatic about scoring an interview with Berlusconi, communications Francesco Siliato of Milan Polytechnic University felt that the news site might have been better off resisting that particular temptation. He told the New York Times:

“It’s an interesting project, but it might be better if they invested more in young journalists rather than old politicians, The power of The Huffington Post in the United States was young people, not politicians.”

Of course, Huffington Post’s expansion into Italy is about more than good intentions and a love of la dolce vita. There’s also ad dollars at stake. As Massimo Ghedini, chief of ad sales at the Huffington Post’s Italian partner, the Expresso Group, explained to the New York Times:

“Italian advertisers are always looking for two things: results, in terms of a return on their investment, and positioning. The Huffington Post gives them both. It brings readers into the conversation, and the Italian edition will spread knowledge of Italian style around the world.”

Jersey Shore goes to Italy

For two years, MTV’s reality show Jersey Shore has been offending Italian-American advocacy groups (and intelligent life-forms in general) with its portrayal of a group of young Italian-American adults chosen primarily for their addiction to tanning salons, ability to consume large amounts of alcohol and propensity for drama.

Now, MTV has decided to help the Jersey Shore cast get “back to their roots” by moving the show to Florence, Italy for a season. However, if the cast was expecting a warm welcome in the “old country,” they’ve no doubt been disappointed.  In the process, they’re learning the heard way about the differences between the Italian culture they’re living in now and the Italian-American culture they grew up in.

The New York Post notes that Italians seem to see the show as an insult:

“Their stay has yielded one cultural insult after another for Italians, who fail to identify with the “Guido” mantra of palestra, abbronzatura, lavanderia (gym, tan, laundry). On Day 1, the Italian press labeled them “supercafoni,” or superboors.”

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