30 December 2021In Transcreation, Interpreting7 Minutes

Hybridisation adds value in translation and interpreting

When describing myself, I often say “Italian communications all-rounder” though I’m aware it’s kind of vague.

How else could I sum up what I do for a living?

At the end of the day, I offer several different services in the field of communications.

And if there’s something I’m particularly proud of, it’s having sat on opposite sides of the desk.

As a copywriter I write marketing and advertising copy in Italian, but as a transcreation specialist I adapt it from English and German to Italian.

As a translator I translate press releases, but when I used to be a freelance publicist, I would write them.

As an interpreter I translate live for journalists at press conferences, but I first attended those kinds of press conference as a journalist.

At first glance, this wide offering and these “double hats” I wear may look like the opposite of specialisation… and the epitome of sloppiness! If this has crossed your mind, take a look at my portfolio – you’ll see I’ve developed the specific know-how required for each service I offer.

I firmly believe that being a hybrid professional can make a difference in high-stakes projects where “the cost of failure is dramatically higher than the cost of performance”, to put it in Kevin Hendzel’s words.

This is the point I’ve been trying to make in “Hybridisation adds value in translation and interpreting”, my third peer-reviewed paper. Drawing on concrete examples from my own professional experience, I show how two highly specialised services, namely the transcreation of TV advertisements and media interpreting for the music industry, can benefit enormously from professionals wearing more than one hat. A “translator plus” (translator + copywriter), for example, is able to adapt a script, but also take care of voice casting and voiceover direction. An “interpreter plus” (interpreter + journalist), on the other hand, may in practice become an additional and highly valued member of an artist’s PR team.

Transcreation of TV commercials

Hybrid profile: translator + copywriter

Service: transcreation, a service that’s halfway between translation and copywriting

Added value: thanks to this double expertise (translation + copywriting), I don’t just transcreate texts. When I create a script in Italian from scratch, I’m also supposed to choose the best voice talents for it and to direct them during the voiceover recording session. By the same token, when I transcreate a script from English or German to Italian, I also take care of voice casting and voiceover direction.

Example: Ryanair’s first pan-European TV campaign. I did the transcreation of the scripts as well as took care of voice casting and VO direction.

Disclaimer: I’m not implying that anyone who offers transcreation services also has experience in VO direction and is able to provide the full package. Nor am I suggesting that transcreation professionals with such expertise are hired to provide the full package for each and every Italian-version TV ad being broadcast in my country. What I’m saying is that voice casting and voiceover direction are an integral part of transcreation as a service, at least the way I intend it. As a matter of fact, it’s rather common for agencies and companies to hire a hybrid professional like me to direct a VO recording session.

Media interpreting for the music industry

Hybrid profile: interpreter + journalist

Service: interpretation at the same kinds of events I attended as a music journalist, i.e. press conferences, round tables and interviews with international artists

Added value: by fully understanding music journalists’ workflows and expectations because of my background, I provide an interpreting service that better suits their needs. I’ll go so far as to say that performing tasks that traditionally are not the interpreter’s responsibility is essential to providing added value in this industry. In my paper I identify four different tasks (facilitate a fruitful exchange between journalists and the artist; provide newsworthy material; act as a gatekeeper; act as a “show-woman” of sorts) with real-life examples for each of them.

Example: when Nothing But Thieves presented their new album Moral Panic online to the Italian media during the pandemic, I led a bilingual talk show of sorts. I introduced the band in Italian and then in English, outlining their main achievements. To break the ice, I asked the band a few questions (in Italian first and then English) and translated their replies from English into Italian. The journalists had sent some questions to Nothing But Thieves’ promotion manager in advance of the event – I put these to the band (again, asking each question first in Italian and then in English) and translated their replies from English into Italian.

Disclaimer: it’s obvious that the situations and the dynamics described in the paper are unlikely to apply to other interpreting fields. However, based on my experience, all stakeholders in this particular niche seem to like this “hybrid” (or should I say “unorthodox”?) approach because they see the added value it creates.

As I’m not a scholar, authoring papers which have passed a peer review and are published in academic journals or volumes is something that makes me enormously proud. That’s why I’m thrilled to share this article, which you can download as PDF.