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Swiss Italian

Swiss Italian is spoken by around 350,000 people in the cantons of Ticino and Grigioni.

Although there are many similarities to standard Italian, the Swiss variant features a significant number of regional variations due to its continuous contact with the French and German spoken in neighbouring areas.

Here are a few examples:

Italian Swiss Italian English
Patente Licenza di condurre (calque of the French ‘permis de conduire’) Driving licence
Promozione Azione (calque of the German ‘Aktion’) Offer
Autobus Autopostale (Most Swiss bus lines are run by a subsidiary of Swiss Post) Bus

However, these loanwords can prove problematic.

Sergio Savoia, author of the Svizzionario dictionary and an important political figure in Italian-speaking Switzerland, explains:
“It is important that we distinguish between poorly written translations riddled with calques from German and the real language spoken in Italian-speaking Switzerland.

A great example of this is marketing communications. Swiss German companies or buyers often ask that their Swiss Italian branches (or translators) use the formal Lei (you) to address their audience. I have been fighting against this trend and advocating the use of the informal Tu.”

It isn’t just language that varies between Italy and Switzerland. They have fundamentally different political structures, infrastructures and cultures. If you have your marketing materials translated into standard Italian, they will also need to be adapted for the consumer climate in Switzerland for optimal results.

Italian and Swiss Italian customers think and perceive things differently. Without adapting communications to your target customer, your message might not have the exact effect you intended. That’s where I come in.

I am Italian and come from Milan in Lombardia, where the language is very similar to the variety spoken in Italian-speaking Switzerland. In fact, Ticinese (spoken in Switzerland’s largest Italian-speaking canton) comes from the same branch of dialects.

Living in both Italy and Switzerland has equipped me with the linguistic and cultural knowledge to craft translations that are tailor-made for each country. I also regularly attend official Swiss Italian terminology seminars in order to maintain and further my skills.

When it comes to transcreation and marketing translations, more than just language skills are required. Understanding the mindset of Swiss Italian customers is what determines your business success.

For further information, head over to my Twitter account and follow my ‘Standard Italian VS Swiss Italian Word of the Day’ column, or take a look at my services and see how I can help you succeed in the Swiss Italian market.