Techniques For English-Italian Translation
How To Translate “you” Into Italian
One of the points I often have to consider when translating from English into Italian is the choice between “tu” and “voi”.
As many other Romantic languages, Italian makes a distinction between the second person singular and the second person plural. In English, though, it’s always “you”, whether the subject is singular or plural.
Deciding which translation to adopt can be vital: using the singular form gives the text a very informal style, which we might want to avoid in certain texts. However, it also makes it more personal, and so engages the reader and makes it easier to read.
Using the plural form on the other hand makes the text a little bit more formal, and it increases the distance between the author and the reader.
Academic texts often avoid the problem by using the neutral form, similar in English to the construction “one has to”. (for example: “Besides the accreditations there are few other things that one has to consider before choosing a school.”)
The same applies to localization, namely the translation of websites.
If you take a look at some Italian websites, you’ll see both versions. So what should you do?
The only possible answer is to be consistent. Be sure to use always the same translation because it’s kind of funny to see a text where there’s a continuous switching between tu and voi. At least for me, because I’m a bit geek with grammar.
Apart from that, it really depends on the client. You have to talk with him/her and explain the difference between the two. More engaging and personal or more formal and general? The answer could be to do some research and see how the competitors decided to talk with their public.
But remember, the customer is always right.