You might expect that the word for a particular colour would be one of the easiest challenges for providers of translation services to overcome.
However, a joint English-Italian study carried out at Liverpool Hope University and Sassari University in Italy, as part of their participation in the Erasmus Exchange Agreement, shows how different languages can portray colours in very different ways.
For instance, in English, the basic term ‘blue’ can apply to the full range of the spectrum in which shades of blue are found.
By contrast, in Italian, the term ‘azzurro’ covers the middle of the range, ‘celeste’ denotes lighter shades, and the more familiar term ‘blu’ is used only for the darkest blues.
In their study, Liverpool’s Galina V Paramei and Sassari’s Cristina Stara sought to identify which of these three constitute basic colour terms – the kinds of words used in translation services to name colours in a way native and non-native speakers alike might understand.
They found ‘blu’ and ‘azzurro’ to be used consistently by Italian speakers, but found ‘celeste’ to be interpreted differently even by native speakers of the language.
Meanwhile, in bilingual speakers of English and Italian, no great consistency was seen for any of the terms – highlighting the value of professional translation agencies if a clear message is required in the finalised translated text.
Source: Liverpool Hope University media
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