If you follow me on social media, you might have seen that I often retweet information about The Universal Exhibition in Milan (Expo 2015) and I said I was very much looking forward to it, as its main topic is “Feeding the planet, Energy for life”- something you can tell I am very passionate about!
However, every day Expo is making headlines in Italy for several reasons (corruption, lack of organisation etc.), including its attitude towards communication with foreign guests.
The first issue to surface was the translation into English and French of the official website, which was clearly not made by a professional. I am no native English speaker, but if you browse their website you will see some poor choices. After being called upon this, Expo said they are “working to fix it”… wouldn’t have been less time-consuming and overall less expensive to do it properly in first place?
Then, I saw an ad on the Internet where they stated they were looking for interpreters. My joy was bound not to last for long, as the recruiting process was held by an employment agency and from the questions and the ridiculous English test you had to fill in, it was clear that they didn’t have a clue about what a conference interpreter does and which requirements he/she should fulfill.
This became clear once again on Saturday 7th, when a big event was held at the Hangar Bicocca to draft the Charter of Milan. The Prime Minister of Italy and even the Pope were invited, along with other 500 experts from all over the world. Pity is, no informative material was available in English, and no simultaneous interpretation was provided to these international experts. Either they spoke Italian or they were not able to join the discussion they were invited for.
Furthermore, to cut on costs, Expo is recruiting volunteers who will work for free from 1st of May to October 31st for eight hours a day; probably, some of them will be in charge of interpreting, too, and who knows if they will be qualified enough to do so?
This whole picture truly upsets me, as I don’t see how can Italy think of hosting an international event without investing in communication with foreign guests.
Translation is only seen as a necessary evil, something to pay the least possible amount for, and who cares if it’s done well or not. The organisers talk about welcoming the world, showcasing Italy and its strengths, promoting our products and values… to whom, if we do not make an effort to speak to them in their language, or at least in a lingua franca?
In order to attract, interest and engage people, we need to communicate with them; translation is a vital part of communication, even if some big shots don’t seem to get it.
In my experience, often Italian people overestimate their skills in a foreign language and try to speak English with terrible results (our current and former Prime Minister, to name a few). Some would prefer make a fool of themselves rather than using an interpreter, or would prefer not to be seen with one.
But interpreters are professionals who are there not to make people look ignorant; they are there so that the person can speak his mind without worrying about messing the grammar up or making up words.
Using a professional interpreter and translator can only enhance communication and not hinder it; can only add prestige, not diminish it.
People don’t realise that translation is an investment that really pays off in the long term, and I cannot wrap my head around the fact that Expo organisers have been so blind about this so far.
I very much doubt things will change once Expo is open, but I can only hope that foreign guests will be wowed by a great exhibition, a warm welcome and accurate translations, for those would make their experience so much better.