Italian

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Which Italian translation do you need?

Getting the Italian translation of your documents right can be very tricky. The Italian language is spoken as the official or co-official language in six different countries so there are a few differences depending on where your translation is intended for use.

Our Italian translators are professional, qualified and accredited linguists who can deliver your translation in Standard Italian (a descendent of the Tuscan dialect) as well as in the many other Regional Italian Dialects.

Other countries where Italian is the official or co-official language

Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, Croatia (Istria Country), Slovenia (Izola, Koper, Piran)

 

Trading With Key European Markets: Italy

History

From 1559 to 1814 Italy was dominated by nearly every significant power in Western Europe. From 1814 to 1861 Italy underwent a political and social process called “Risorgimento” (Unification), which united different states of the Italian peninsula. After having remained neutral at the beginning of the First World War, the Italian government agreed to sign the London Pact in April 1915 to declare war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Fascist government led by dictator Benito Mussolini took over Italy in 1922 and joined an alliance with Germany and Japan. The Allied Powers invaded Sicily in 1943 and Mussolini was thrown out on 25 July 1943. The Italian Republic was established on 2nd June 1946 by referendum. A new constitution was written for the new republic, which took effect on 1st January 1948. A bombing in the centre of Milan on 12th December 1969 marked the beginning of a violent period called the “anni di piombo” (“lead years”). In the 1980’s, for the first time, two governments were led by a Republican and a Socialist rather than by the Christian Democrat party, which had previously dominated Italian politics. From 1992 to 1997, Italy faced significant challenges as voters demanded political, economic and ethical reforms.

Language

The majority language of Italy is Italian. Parts of the Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German-speaking. There is a small French-speaking minority in the Valle d’Aosta region. In the Trieste-Gorizia area, there is a Slovene-speaking minority.

Population

Italy has a population of 58,145,320 (July 2008 estimate). Small clusters of German-, French- and Slovene-Italians live in the north of Italy and there are some Albanian- and Greek-Italians in the south. Approx. 94.2% of the population is designated as ethnic Italian. Italy’s make-up of ethnic minorities is 1.05% Romanian, 0.93% North African, 0.67% Albanian, 0.26% Chinese, 0.66% other Asian (non-Chinese, 0.22% Ukrainian, 0.46% South American, 0.41% Sub-Saharan African, 1.09% designated as “other”.

Business Activity in Italy: Key Sectors

The main industrial sectors of Italy are tourism, machinery, iron and steel, chemicals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, clothing, footwear and ceramics. Exportations are linked to engineering products, textiles and clothing, production machinery, motor vehicles, transport equipment, chemicals, food, beverages and tobacco, minerals and nonferrous metals. A large percentage of food exportation is represented by the export of olive oil, wine and many typical food products.

Trading With Italy: Business Relationships

Italians are generally relationship orientated. Italians tend to establish a very relaxed mood, often from the first acquaintance. In general, they are also eloquent and curious. It is possible that they will ask you questions about your family and your personal interest.

For Italians, establishment of a trusted relationship is as important as the presentation of the business proposal.

Italian firms tend to follow a pyramidal hierarchy where final decisions are centralised and taken by the chairman.

Employees generally have great respect for their boss and look for consensus among their colleagues.

These attitudes often speed up doing business with Italians.

This rigid organisational framework is mostly counterbalanced by the individualism and creativity of team members.

Attitudes

The Italian State and its bureaucratic system are generally perceived as a negative and intrusive presence by Italian business people.

Italians have a positive attitude towards doing business with foreign companies.

The presence of women in technical and business positions is increasing, although it is still relatively infrequent to find them in the highest position of an organisation.

Italians are generally not inhibited when working together with the opposite sex and foreign women can do business without great difficulty in Italy.

Taboos

There are not many taboos that affect trading with Italy.

There are a number of sensitive topics, such as politics, mafia, private family and private income.

If an Italian business associate expresses negative comments about any aspect of the Italian situation, avoid expressing additional criticism of your own.

Time Keeping

Punctuality is not a priority for Italians.

As a general rule, work plans are often not taken too strictly, meaning that some flexibility is associated with any deadline.

Italians prefer to multitask.

Business Ethics: Giving Gifts

It is not particularly common in Italian business culture for gifts to be given and, generally speaking, this is not expected.

If a trustful and familiar relationship has been established, it may appear natural to give a small, not obviously expensive gift as a sign of friendship.

Choices of gifts may include liquors, delicacies or crafts from your home or region. Never give an even number of flowers and avoid chrysanthemums.

Business Practice: Cross-cultural Communication with Italy

Written forms of communication should be used on first approach with Italian business associates.

If you do not speak Italian, state this clearly in your letter, email or fax and indicate the language you prefer to speak.

After the first approach, Italians prefer to do business on a face-to-face basis.

A certain formality is common and appreciated.

The use of professional titles is required, especially in writing.

Usage of informal address can be adopted quite rapidly, depending on the company culture and personal attitude.

Non-verbal Communication

Italians tend to gesture good-naturedly to emphasize their speech.

In face-to-face conversation, Italians generally leave almost no personal space.

Eye contact is very important as it is considered a sign of interest.

Looking away from a speaker may be perceived as a lack of interest or as misunderstanding.

Italians often exchange business cards and will sometimes cross off formal titles to show that a less formal relationship has been established.

Dress

Dress plays an important role in Italian culture.

Often great attention is given to fashionable brand clothing and accessories as well as quality fabrics.

Formal attire is generally expected for business meetings.

For the most part, businessmen wear dark coloured suits and businesswomen wear elegant, sober trouser or skirt suits with simple jewellery and make-up.

Business Meals

Hospitality plays an important role in Italian business culture, so business meals are a key part of business.

Normally, business dinners take place at carefully selected restaurants.

According to circumstances and time constraints, the invitation might be for lunch or dinner.

In Italy, lunch is still the main meal of the day and it comprises several courses.

Wine is served with lunch, but drinking too much is not accepted and is considered impolite.

Restaurant Etiquette

Do not leave the table during dinner – it is considered rude.

Try to keep your hands above the table, even when you have finished eating.

Place your knife and fork on the right side of the plate to indicate that you have finished eating.

Business Meetings

Italians feel more comfortable when a direct relationship has been established before getting down to business.

Meetings are primarily considered as a way to get a deeper, common understanding of an issue.

Business meetings are not the conclusive part of the decision-making process.

The goal of business meetings in Italy is often to provide all necessary information about a proposal and to establish reciprocal trust and respect.

Setting up a Meeting

Appointments are mandatory and should be made in writing in Italian 2 to 3 weeks in advance.

Reconfirm the meeting by telephone or fax.

Avoid scheduling meetings in August, as many companies are closed.

Make sure all printed material is available in both English and Italian.

It is often a good idea to employ the services of an interpreter if you do not speak Italian.

Negotiations

In the north, people see time as money and get down to business after only a brief period of social talk.

In the south, people take a more leisurely approach, and like to get to know the people with whom they do business.

Allow your Italian colleagues to set the pace for negotiations. Follow their lead when looking to move from social to business discussion.

Once you are full, you may have to insist repeatedly that you do not want more food.

Keep your wine glass relatively full if you do not wish to drink more.

Italians prefer to do business with high-ranking people – they respect power and age.

Negotiations are often lengthy and protracted.

Heated debates and arguments can often break out in meetings. This is a perfectly normal part of the exchange of ideas.

Haggling over price and delivery date is common.

Meeting Follow-up

Always adhere to verbal agreements – failing to honour a commitment could destroy your relationship with a business.

Decisions will frequently be made following a meeting, and not during – the meeting is used to exchange ideas and to hear everyone’s views.


Hints and Tips

Greetings are enthusiastic, but quite formal.

A handshake with direct eye contact and a smile will suffice between strangers.

Once a relationship develops, air-kissing on both cheeks, starting with the left is often added as well as a pat on the back between men.

Wait until invited to address someone by their first name.

Italians are guided by first impressions – demonstrate propriety and respect when greeting people for the first time.

Many Italians use calling cards in social situations – these are slightly larger than business cards, and are a good idea if you’re visiting Italy for an extended period of time.