Italian Language Blog

Bureaucratic Italian part 1, Conosci i tuoi Diritti? Posted by on Apr 11, 2010 in Grammar, Italian Language

Every now and then I write a blog  about ‘colloquial Italian’, explaining everyday language and expressions that you don’t normally find in grammar books and language classes. At the other end of the spectrum we have ‘bureaucratic Italian’, and although it won’t help you much if you want to fare due chiacchiere (have a chat) with the locals, it is still an important aspect of the Italian language, especially if you plan to be in Italy for long periods of time or perhaps even live here. Unfortunately, Italian bureaucracy is notoriously antiquated and convoluted, and in general the language reflects this.

A few days ago when I went to visit my national health dentist I found a leaflet in the waiting area entitled ‘Consci i tuoi Diritti?’ (Do you know your rights?’). The purpose of the leaflet is explained by the sub-heading ‘La SICUREZZA è un impegno di TUTTI che migliora la QUALITÀ del lavoro di CIASCUNO’ (SAFETY is a commitment for everyone that improves the QUALITY of work for EACH OF US).

Now, a ‘health and safety at work’ leaflet in Italy may seem a bit eccentric, somewhat akin to wearing a paper hat in a monsoon, after all, just crossing the road on a pedestrian crossing in Italy is our national version of Russian Roulette! But let’s give credit where credit is due, at least they are trying (although of course the Italian cynic in me immediately suspects some European Union edict is at play here). Here are some excerpts from this ‘hopeful’ leaflet, let’s explore some of the language it uses:

Quali sono i tuoi diritti?

What are your rights? N.B. although this is an official leaflet it tries to avoid being overly bureaucratic by using the friendly ‘tu’ form.

essere informato sui rischi legati alla tua mansione

to be informed about the risks associated with your task. N.B. mansione (‘task’ or ‘duty’) is more specific than the word lavoro (‘work’ or ‘job’)

essere formato su come eseguire in sicurezza il tuo lavoro

to be trained how to safely carry out your work. N.B. in Italian we have several verbs meaning ‘to train’, formare is the most appropriate one to use in this situation as it implies ‘professional training’
ricevere i dispositivi di protezione individuale specifici per la tua mansione (casco, cuffie, scarpe antinfortunistiche, maschere respiratorie ecc) to receive personal protection devices appropriate to your duty (helmet, headphones, safety footwear, breathing masks etc). N.B. infortunio sul lavoro means ‘industrial accident’, and therefore un dispositivo antinfortunistico is a device that protects against such accidents, hence scarpe antinfortunistiche (literally: anti accident shoes) 
essere informato sul comportamento da tenere in caso di incidenti o emergenze to be informed about what to do in case of accidents or emergency. 
N.B. ‘il comportamento da tenere can more literally be translated as ‘how to behave’.

In part 2 we’ll have a look at ‘I tuoi Doveri’ (your duties) as an employee.

Alla prossima

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  1. Jeannet:

    Ciao Serena,

    Ho letto attentissimo questo blog, mi domando
    se il modo nuovo allo scrivere ‘ti ricordo’ è
    in caso dell’burocratico concernante la tassa.
    Una volta sono/abbiamo imparati che l’italiani sono sempre formale, della politezza. Ma in caso questo mi posso imaginare..

    Grazie Serena.

    • serena:

      @Jeannet Ciao Jeannet, In general the ‘tu’ form is becoming more common, especially in advertising. I think the health and safety leaflet was trying to be less formal in order to try and appeal to more people. A lot of young people also use a more informal way of speaking. I remember for example, that when we recently went into a big video rental store in Lucca, the teenage shop assistant, whom I’d never met before, greeted me with ciao! I felt a bit offended by this because we only use ciao with friends, good acquaintances, and family. I naturally replied buongiorno!


  2. Samuele:

    Gentile Serena,
    Francamente trovo un po’ offensivi i luoghi comuni sull’Italia e gli italiani su cui insisti nel primo paragrafo.
    Forse lo fai per compiacere i tuoi lettori, ma penso che gli stranieri che ti seguono certo si aspettano di conoscere meglio il nostro paese, non di confermare i propri pregiudizi.
    Grazie dell’attenzione.

    • Serena:

      @Samuele Salve Samuele!
      Mi dispiace che ti senti offeso dal nostro articolo, ma proprio non vedo quale sia il problema. Il nostro blog cerca di fare esattamente l’opposto, di non confermare gli stereotipi sull’Italia (sole, campi di girasoli, prosecco a tutte le ore del giorno), ma di presentare la realtà coi suoi lati negativi e positivi. Il burocratese è senz’altro uno dei lati negativi dell’Italia, così come la mancanza di precauzione sul lavoro: le regole esistono, ma nessuno le applica e infatti abbiamo un nome preciso per i morti sul lavoro: le morti bianche.
      Saluti da Serena

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