Why is it so difficult to translate a menu?
If you’re looking for a truly exotic dish, you need look no further than the many badly-translated menus in English…you’ll find all sorts, from ‘fried fishermen’ to ‘revolting eggs’, from ‘feet with jam’ to ‘fried friendship’ and even ‘saucepans in butter with fried hormones’! Mmmmm….delicious!
Errors in menus which have been translated into English often just make us laugh. But they are no laughing matter for those who work in the restaurant industry -with a badly-written menu you can quickly lose valuable customers!
A good translation is so important!
Translating a menu is not as easy as it may seem – even less so in Italy where there is a plethora of regional dishes and variations. In the land of the bella vita, cooking is an essential part of the culture, an expression of the history, climate, and local traditions.
It is precisely this connection between food and culture which makes it difficult to translate menus, especially for restaurateurs who wish to attract new clients from other countries.
Italian cuisine is known and enjoyed the world over, and when foreign tourists travel to Italy they want an authentic experience of Italian cooking.
Nowadays in fact, more and more tourists want to discover traditional cooking, they want to eat exactly as the locals do.
Often however, they come across unusually-named dishes, special cooking methods, unfamiliar ingredients. For example, how do you translate ‘strozzapreti’, ‘pici’, ‘bagna cauda’, ‘tiramisu’?
How do you translate difficult terms?
There are various options. For example, ‘tiramisu’ doesn’t need a translation, as it is now a dish which is so familiar outside Italy. Therefore, an English-speaking customer is likely to have a clear idea of what makes up this dessert.
On other occasions, however, one needs to decide whether or not to leave the term in Italian or not.
By leaving it in Italian, the tourist can learn the name of the typical dish and then be able to to recognise it elsewhere. However, it may be useful to add a brief explanation in English of the dish.
This could be an appropriate solution for ‘strozzapreti’, strozzapreti, twirls of pasta…
In this case one should also think about whether or not to add a literal translation, i.e. ‘priest-chokers’, taking into consideration the extent to which this would add to the appeal of the dish or otherwise.
Does the type of restaurant matter?
Yes! You need different types of menus for different types of restaurants.
Special consideration should be taken for gourmet restaurants where the menu can often be compared to a piece of poetry. A gourmet menu should create an artwork of flavours in the imagination of the reader whilst at the same time providing a clear and accurate description of the dish.
For these reasons, it is vital that the translator has a high level of culinary knowledge and awareness. This expertise means the creations of Italian chefs can be accurately and effectively translated into English.
Key Translating can help you out with this difficult task.
For all those who work in the restaurant and hospitality industry, a well-translated menu can make all the difference. Break down any barriers between the client and their gastronomic discovery of an area. Give your guests the best possible experience while they enjoy your hospitality.