Incontro con Valeria Tettamanti

Buongiorno Valeria!

“There are no problems. There are only solutions!” Sounds like a platitude. For Valeria Tettamanti, it is a key component of her self-image. Her place of work? Apostroph Mendrisio. In her capacity as Head of Operations, she has free reign as a translator and project manager in the Mendrisio office. Here we have a doer, an experienced linguist and problem- solver in “Switzerland’s sunroom”.

Head of Operations Apostroph Mendrisio Valeria Tettamanti

Apostroph Group took over the respected language agency Marco Gehring Communications one year ago. Here, in tranquil Mendrisio, Valeria Tettamanti has been working for exactly 20 years with her well-coordinated team of eight linguists. She doesn’t just hold the reins. “I make sure that everyone feels good and that the projects run smoothly,” she says. “I like solving problems. Often it’s like a puzzle: I see to it that all the pieces are put together quickly. That’s exactly my cup of tea!”

When Valeria was studying languages in Milan, she couldn’t make any headway without countless thick language books and dictionaries. The digitalised world has brought speed and professionalism to the profession. She thinks this is a positive development.

In addition to her mother tongue Italian, she speaks German, French and English. “This is ideal here in Ticino, a region where people from half the world meet – all languages are used.” Valeria is one of at least 300 inhabitants in a small village in the Blenio Valley. Here she lives in an old traditional house, a “rustico”, in the middle of the forest. She feels at ease in the wild natural surroundings – the perfect place to get back into balance.

Valeria, you have been a member of the Apostroph family for a year now. How do you all feel about it?

We feel very good. Everyone welcomed us as if it were the most natural thing in the world. We became a member of the Apostroph family in a flash, and were able to build good relationships with our new colleagues without any problems. Even the connection to the IT environment and the processes worked quickly. I think we bring southern flair to Apostroph. My impression is that the employees from Zurich, Lucerne and Bern always like to visit us here.

How would you describe your Mendrisio team?

We are a committed, well-functioning team of women. Our strength is our cohesion. We like each other, treat each other in a kind way and can rely on each other. Even in stressful moments, which are quite frequent at our company, we say to ourselves: sure, together we can do it. If necessary, one employee steps in to take over another employee’s duties, even at short notice. We have support from excellent freelance colleagues, on whom we can totally rely. We have a wide range of technical skills, do pretty much everything – from technical translation to transcreation and copywriting.

One of your strengths is producing creative texts. How do you create successful advertising copy?

You have to take a cheeky and courageous approach. It is not a question of self-realisation but of paying respect to the product and the brand. When translating advertising texts, you have to immerse yourself in the targeted cultural area. You have to move away from the original text and capture the emotions behind it. This must be authentically conveyed in the desired message. Culture and perception play an important role: you laugh differently, think differently and the sensitivities are different. You have to keep that in mind. Let’s take religion as an example: Catholics are more sensitive than Protestants in certain areas.

What are the other peculiarities in the Italian language?

Italian is only marginally influenced by English vocabulary, far less than German. There are German headlines which contain English words – that would not work in Italian. An Italian headline has to be one thing above all: short! Negative formulations are taboo, whereas well-written rhymes and wordplay are highly appreciated!

Do you have a good example of effective advertising slogans?

This one worked great: Einfach verbunden (Simply connected), a Swisscom slogan. This was transcreated to Capirsi, semplicemente. To Ticino ears, it could not have been said in a friendlier way, because Capirsi means much more than understanding one other. The word also stands for relationship, reciprocity, empathy, undivided attention, acceptance and appreciation. In other words, for exactly what makes up the Italian-speaking culture and the way we communicate. It is well known that our communication is livelier, with stronger interactions. Another example comes from Thomy: Aus Liebe zum Besseren (For love of better things) is the German slogan. The transcreation La scelta che s’impone (the inevitable choice) is cheeky and successful, because it takes into account that we are not yet ready to accept off-the-shelf products such as mayonnaise as “better” in Ticino.

Interesting. Please now give us an example of a blunder.

Oh yes – there is one that remains unforgettable in Ticino. Schweizer Bratbutter (Swiss clarified butter) became Burro per arrostire svizzeri. Unfortunately, this translates as: Butter for roasting Swiss people. I think this was launched in the early days of machine translation. A lot of water will pass under the bridge before artificial intelligence has reached the stage of being able to professionally translate creative texts.

Please tell us something about the Ticino dialect. How does it sound to someone from Florence?

The Ticino dialect sounds just beautiful! And it is widespread, including in Mendrisio. I love having morning or afternoon tea with friends at my place, where almost only dialect is spoken. The dialect in northern Italy is similar to ours, but it would also be understood in Florence. Of course, they would probably have trouble understanding the dialect in the remote Ticino valleys, for example in the Bedretto Valley. I suspect it is similar to a person from Zurich talking to a person from the Upper Valais.

What’s your favourite Italian word?

The most beautiful Italian word for me is persona, a word that combines soul, passion and intelligence. It’s just as beautiful as “Mensch” in German (person/human).

What are three things you simply must see or do if you visit Mendrisio?

First: savour the honest, authentic dishes in one of our grotti (simple taverns) together with one of the good Ticino wines. Second: explore the mountains surrounding Mendrisio. On Monte San Giorgio and Monte Generoso, the view opens up to a magnificent 360° panorama. This conveys Zen-like feelings – pure contemplation! And third: please visit us at the Apostroph office – the hospitality of the Momò, as the inhabitants of Mendrisio are called, is guaranteed! After all, it is well known that the most likeable, spontaneous and funniest Ticino inhabitants live in the Mendrisiotto (laughs).


Grazie Valeria!

È stato un piacere.


Italian from the professionals? Proprio così – click here!

Would you like to find out more about Apostroph Mendrisio?

Then get in touch with me – I would be happy to help.
Valeria Tettamanti
Head of Language Officers Mendrisio
Apostroph Team Valeria Tettamanti

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