Anyone speak Italian?

Can someone translate the following into Italian…

“When one door closes, another opens.”

Quando una porta si chiude, un’altra si apre.

Thank you.

Just out of curiosity, I checked out Babelfish:

Quando un portello chiuso, antera si apre.

Not sure if **Johanna **is a native speaker, but I’d be curious to see what a native speakers says about the Babelfish take. I know it’s not particularly reliable, but I would hope that it could pass muster for such an easy phrase…

I’m native American English speaking, but Italian was spoken in my family when I was growing up. I began classroom study of Italian when I was 12 and have had continued fluency in it ever since. The word for door that I always learned was porta. Whereas portello means a porthole or hatchway on a ship.

Another Babelfish error: the verbs in the original phrase are intransitive, but Babelfish used transitive verbs, which require a direct object. I observed years ago that Babelfish was the crap de la crap, and best avoided entirely.

I should note that literal translations may not always convey the exact sentiment of adages or sayings that we’d give them in English, at least in part because there is often a phrase in the foreign language that is already in common usage but uses different words, imagery, metaphors. I had a Japanese acquaintance once who was good enough at English to give me literal translations of Japanese proverbs or zen mondo sayings. One I remember was “Don’t tap your walking stick on the bridge to make sure it is strong, or your tapping may make it collapse.” I did a little puzzling over that and finally concluded that it meant much the same as “leave well enough alone,” but it did not convey that as clearly or accurately as the original Japanese phrase would have to a Japanese native.

I misread that. Babelfish has the first verb as the past participle chiuso, which needs to go with the conjugated verb essere ‘to be’. Otherwise it’s ungrammatical used like that. The second verb si apre is correctly intransitive, give them that.

Hi Johanna…help me out here, this looks idiomatic. How does the “si” work there–is that reflexive?

The reflexive conjugation in Italian covers three different grammatical functions. And the example in the OP is good for illustrating the differences between them.

Intransitive: The door opens. (Without reference to how the opening is done; it simply says the door enters a state of being open.)
Passive: The door is opened (by somebody or something).
Reflexive: The door opens itself.

Self-opening doors are commonly found at the entrances to grocery stores. Here the agent is the door itself (strictly speaking, a mechanism opens it, but as far as grammar is concerned, we say the door opens itself, which is a genuinely reflexive verb).
A door being opened (passively) indicates an external agent acting upon it.
A door that simply opens, as an intransitive verb, has no direct object and no reference to any agent; it just becomes open for whatever reason. This is the sense called for in the OP.

In Italian, the reflexive conjugation si apre is used for all three meanings.

My father grew up speaking a mix of Italian and English. His parents came over from Sicily, and spoke mostly Italian at home, while his brothers and sisters understood Italian, but refused to speak it. At any rate, Daddy would sometimes say something that sounded like “Vasha port!” when one of us kids didn’t close the door. I have no idea of the proper spelling, I just know that Daddy claimed it means “Shut the door!” in Italian. It also means “I don’t want to cool or heat the whole neighborhood!”

Thank you! The more I learn the less I know…

The discussion above uses standard Italian, but be aware that Sicily has its own dialect that has many differences in pronunciation (I think dropping the final vowel is common, for example, though I don’t know the dialect).

I have been told, quite firmly, that Sicilians are NOT Italians, no matter what the reference sources say. :slight_smile:

Forging a shared Italian national identity out of the various regions has always been the main challenge of Italian unification. Italian people identify with their region or province, and the national state is an abstraction from their point of view, lacking in a feeling of immediacy or significance. This is more true in Sicily than any other region. During our lifetime, Italy has made progress in developing a national feeling, although whether it comes up much outside of international soccer matches, I’m not sure.

Sicily has long had its own identity and its own history separate from the Italian peninsula. During the entire time it was part of the Roman Empire, it was never a Latin-speaking region. It was always Greek-speaking up to and through the period of Arab rule. The present-day Romance language of Sicilian only came about from the immigration of Calabrians after the Normans took it from the Arabs. Most importantly, civilization in Sicily predated that of most of Italy, going back to the earliest Greek immigration circa 900 BC. Again, Sicily maintained high civilization under the Arabs while the rest of Italy was plunged into the Dark Ages, and in fact much of the cultural input for the early phases of the Italian Renaissance is traced back to Sicily. No wonder we Sicilians have our own feeling of identity which does not really fit with modern unified Italy.

Babelfish sucks. Johanna got it right.

Bear in mind that Italian uses reflexive forms way more than English does. For example, in English we would say “I hurt my leg,” whereas in Italian this would be: “Mi sono fatto male alla gamba.”


Literally, I made myself hurt at the leg. Or: I did myself hurt to the leg.

Truth be told, I hadn’t counted all three until the OP question made me analyze it, so I’m learning as I go too.

At least for this very simple sentence, Google Translate returned exactly the same thing as Johanna. Perhaps there are studies of how accurate the various translation programs are?

Ah yes, Sicily, the Kick Me State. :wink:

I’m afraid that without a literal, word-for-word translation, your example is meaningless (pardon the pun).

Phthbbbth. Studies my ass. The entire translation community knows that machine translators are garbage. At least the ones available for free.

If one ever existed that was worth a damn, it would be developed by government/military contract (as a government translator, I was requested to provide some input into research of this kind) and I can promise you it would not be open source code, and if it were ever released to the public, whoever held the rights would charge plenty for it. Computer science, as far as I know, has never cracked the secret of successful machine translation. If they have, it’s a clearance level I never got access to.

There are sort of adequate machine translators that are limited to highly technical language, say engineering specs. This depends on technical writing being as machinelike as possible in the first place, and if you give the computer crib notes like tagging the strings that might confuse it. But natural human language, including idioms, is still beyond the reach of AI translation. Word-sense disambiguation is still a skill that only human wetware can handle.

Machine translations have been used for certain scientific and technical jobs for years now. However, they still need a human translator to go over them and fix all the inevitable flaws.

Google Translate is pretty much hopeless for anything but English-French-Spanish, and even then fails constantly. If I need a quick-and-very-very-dirty look at something, I have been known to use Google Translate, with the understanding that it will never be quite right and needs double checking. But Babelfish? Substituting porthole for door? That is a disgrace. There is no excuse for anything that stupid.

You’ve probably already noticed I provided that in the post immediately following it.

Johanna already indicated a couple of rough, literal translations. The sense of it in English would be if I said “I hurt myself on my leg.” Another example might be: “I don’t feel good”, when we’re feeling sick or a little under the weather. In Italian, this would be: “Non mi sento bene,” or “I don’t feel myself well.” No self .- abuse jokes, please! :smiley: