METM22 Chronicles: Laura Bennett and Elizabeth Garrison

Interactive Italian translation session: solving problems and developing strategies

In line with this year’s theme, “The personal touch”, METM22 had a decidedly interactive slant, including snippet-style translation sessions for French, Spanish and – to my delight – Italian into English.

The concept

The concept was simple: eight short snippets of Italian text (provided in advance and displayed on screen), two groups of translators on the day, and one shared goal of putting our heads together to get the creative translator juices flowing.

METM22 Italian snippet slam


Laura and Elizabeth guided us through the snippets, with each group brainstorming for five to ten minutes before sharing ideas with the rest of the room. Elizabeth jotted down our solutions on a whiteboard, which was useful for monitoring progress and visualizing the different directions we were taking with each text. Sometimes we came up with very similar, even identical translations, while on other occasions we opted for something radically different. It was rewarding to see what happened when we brought the two sides together creating another iteration – often the most impactful.

The text types varied from food and drink to advertising, which kept us on our toes. We also benefitted from having a native Italian speaker in each group. Collectively we managed to cover five out of the eight snippets – a pretty good achievement in 45 minutes.

Translation takeaways

Our discussions took us in many directions (surprise surprise!). These three takeaways emerged when grappling with marketing copy:

  • Being sharp and snappy often takes priority over transferring the exact source words (especially with polysemous words like sentire).
  • Sound is important, especially when a slogan is said aloud in an advert. Think about assonance, alliteration and other rhetorical figures (e.g. The essence of Sicily).
  • Always consider how supporting images/videos can help carry the message.

Culture counts

Differences between Englishes also generated discussion (e.g. US vs UK) and our varying cultural backgrounds meant some expressions conjured up different ideas and images (wine or beer bottle?).

It was interesting to note how the pandemic has influenced the way we read some elements of the text. In advertising copy for gym equipment, we were asking ourselves whether the equipment was for use in a gym or at home. It affected the messaging and therefore the slant of our copy.

Thinking fast and slow

Some participants were quick to voice solutions, while others required more processing time. One tip shared was to try improvisation as a way of training ourselves to push through mental blocks and come up with something. Handy for a tricky rhyme or slick play on words.

On syntax and collocations

Changing sentence structure was often a good strategy to tame lengthy Italian constructions with multiple parenthetical clauses. We did this aloud, almost subconsciously, pulling apart the meaning collectively before fitting the pieces back together into natural-sounding English. Finding good collocations was another powerful strategy for recreating the same effect in the target language as in the source (e.g. “drunk and disorderly”).


Laura and Elizabeth’s session was a welcome, post-lockdown reminder of how beneficial working face-to-face with other professionals can be. Keeping the session structure fairly loose and not trying to cover too much was a good approach, as it can take time to warm up. Hearing others’ thought processes was a valuable exercise, whether for reassurance or inspiration, encouraging critical reflection on our own, usually solitary, practices. Sessions like these are also an excellent training ground for receiving off-the-cuff feedback. Many of the ideas discussed can be applied across languages, making the sessions doubly enriching.

Thank you for reminding us why two or more (pintxo-fuelled) heads really are better than one.

This METM22 presentation was chronicled by Hayley Smith.

Featured photo by METM22 photographer Jone Karres, embedded photo by the author.

One thought on “METM22 Chronicles: Laura Bennett and Elizabeth Garrison

Leave a Reply