by Veronica Papalia (linguistics researcher)
I had the experience to meet Fabrizio Comolli, a technical writer and translator, interested in the HCI field (Human-Computer Interaction). I have interviewed him not only about himself and his career but also for what concerns Computer book editing in general. The result is very amazing.
Throughout the interview a major fact that has been highlighted is that a good computer writer should possess a humanistic background. "Usually", he said," a skilled programmer is neither a good teacher nor a good writer of manuals". And this because his high competence in the subject does not allow him to understand what the real level of the readers' knowledge background is.
The writer's point of view must focus on the audience and not on the topic. This means that the implicit question a technical writer should answer is not "what can this software do?" but to the question "what does the audience want to learn to do?".
Comolli is also known as a translator of computer manuals from American into Italian. Part of the interview explores this experience of his, to better know him but also to underline some crucial aspects of translating computer books. Besides the level of competence and understanding of the subject, a translator must consider diverse aspects, for example the difference of culture between Americans and Italians.
Some examples, quotations or jokes are well-known only in one of the two countries, the translator must be aware of this and find a way to solve the problem. Also in the case of translating technical words the debate is open: should a technical word be translated or left in American? From his experience, Fabrizio answers to some of these questions, colouring them with alive funny episodes.
(torna al testo italiano - full italian version)