This week one of our English translators offers some advice about translating for the tourism sector.

The first translations assigned to me by SMG were in the tourism sector. Tourism translations include travel brochures, museum guides, hotel leaflets, menus and websites for all areas of the sector. Tourism requires much less specialist knowledge than metallurgy or dentistry, but do not let that fool you as translators still face many challenges when tackling these kinds of texts. All three of the translation functions referred to by the translation theorist Katharina Reiss can be applied to tourism texts: The informative function which refers to the communication of content relates to the need to provide clear and precise details about the date, time and venue and admission fees of the attraction. The second function to consider is operative, meaning communicating content with persuasive character. This is where the marketing techniques come into play in order to attract tourists to the chosen destination or event. Last but not least is the expressive function which is what Reiss refers to as ‘artistically organised content’. The beauty of tourism translations is that there is space for creativity which allows you to demonstrate your ability to master the English language. Translators should keep all three of these functions in mind to ensure a successful tourism translation.

Some of the biggest hurdles to overcome when translating tourist texts from Italian to English are shown below:

Long sentences

Italian sentences are renowned for being long. On occasion I have found sentences in tourist translations almost as long and winding as the cycle paths they describe. The English sentence structure is much shorter in comparison. English readers expect clear and concise sentences so it may be necessary to break up the Italian phrase into shorter sections. A good way of doing this is to analyse the Italian phrase and try to break it up before translating. This stage needs careful consideration so as not to lose any of the original meaning.

Roman numerals

Dates are often expressed in Roman Numerals in Italian texts but not in English. Thus “XV secolo” must be translated as “16th Century”. Moreover, in Italian, terms such as ‘settecento’ and ‘ottocento’ can mislead inexperienced translators. Rather than referring to the 700s and 800s as one would assume, they relate instead to the 1700s and 1800s. It is essential that tourism translators are thoroughly aware of how to translate dates because history plays a key role in the tourism industry.

Passato remoto

The passato remoto is one of the tenses found lurking in tourism translations. It appears in the following phrase: “La Cappella Sistina fu costruita tra il 1475 e il 1481”. Unlike Italian, English does not have a specific tense to describe the past. However, it is important that the translator recognises the tense and translates accordingly into the simple past: “The Sistine Chapel was built between 1475 and 1481”.

Poetic phrases

Tourism texts often use poetic language to describe their destinations and attractions in a favourable light. These techniques may include alliteration, idioms, metaphors etc. Particular care should be awarded to titles and subheadings. These must be short and snappy and make the reader want to find out more. If an Italian heading is effective due to its alliteration or rhyming qualities, the translator has the choice of basing their title either on the poetic techniques or concentrating on conveying the message. Translators should ultimately aim for their tourism texts to sound natural in English, steering clear of any literal translations which do not flow.

Names of events and projects

When tourist texts refer to an event or project taking place in a town, it is usually necessary to keep the name of the event in the foreign language so that tourists know what they are attending and can follow any indications to the event. However, a literal translation should be provided in brackets at the side to ensure the reader understands the nature of the event: Pedalando nel parco (Cycling in the park).


At SMG we compile glossaries and use computer software to ensure our texts are uniform. For example, if the word ‘navetta’ is translated as ‘shuttle bus’ in one of your texts, our tools ensure that this term will be used for all subsequent texts. This is an important consideration in the tourism sector as it ensures the tourists are provided with clear information. You can also decide whether you would like your text written in British English or American English depending on your target audience as we have translators with knowledge of both varieties.

Be aware of your target audience

When translating information about tourist destinations for a foreign target audience, you need to pay attention to details. Prices given in euros in the Italian translation should be changed to British pounds. Often, further information is required so that foreign audiences can understand a foreign concept. For example, Italian abbreviations should be extended and explained. When translating menus for example, it should be explained that the DOP label on Italian products refers to ‘Protected Designation of Origin’. Don’t forget to check the writing norms in the target language. For example, months and days of the week require capital letters in English but not in Italian.

To find out more about our tourism translations and other SMG languages services, please visit our website at www.smgtranslations.co.uk.

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