Asked • 03/14/19

Why translate cities and person names?

I come from a language that preserves the original names of cities and especially personality names, so I was very surprised to find in Italian translation of this particular substantive types. I even once had an argument with one Italian friend about Bruto; he didn't understand that his original name was Brutus.A few examples: cities - Munich (Monaco), Stuttgart (Stoccarda), Paris (Parigi), Frankfurt (Francoforte), historical figures - Louis XIV (Luigi XIV), Henry VIII (Enrico VIII) or other names - Michael (Maicol) etc. In English there isn't any great figure called John Brown (Giordano Bruno), so why the Italian language creates such confusion by doing the reverse?I'm not referring to the slight gender adaptations like Dublin (Dublino), but to the very brutal ones like Munich, which I actually confused with the french Monaco for very long time. My question: is this a rule, it is done nowadays as well, or it refers just some old adaptations and why it is done? I think there is a loss of meaning in this adaptation and I had difficulties discussing with Italians about famous historical figures because of this.

Paolo A.

I do not have an answer but, as a native speaker of Italian and an experienced teacher of Latin and other languages, I can say that what we perceive as a rule in language is more correctly seen as usage. It is difficult to non-native speakers of Italian to accept that Munich is Monaco. However, Munich should actually be München (as is for Germans). No to mention that 'zucchini' should be 'zucchine' and 'data' or 'visa' only used for plural, where the singular should be 'datum' or 'visum'. When it comes to incongruent usage, English is the greatest culprit, and frankly Italian, German, and French are far more rational than English in translating city names and in the use of syntax.


4 Answers By Expert Tutors


Jesse L. answered • 05/12/20

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Patient online tutor for language learners

Paolo A. answered • 04/01/19

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Experienced Latin teacher, Ivy League PhD

Lucia A. answered • 03/29/19

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Native Italian Speaker Teacher

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