Celebrating Translation Day: Remembering What Translation Means

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Did you know that September 30, 2018 is International Translation Day? Translation Day started in 1953 and was set on the Catholic feast day of St. Jerome - the original biblical translator! In 1991, the day was made officially global by FIT (the International Federation of Translators) and it wasn't until May 24, 2017 that the United Nations officially passed a resolution recognizing the day as proposed by eleven different member nations: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Paraguay, Qatar, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Vietnam! A true cause to celebrate for translators all over the globe!

As a member of FIT and a professional organization devoted to certifying translators and interpreters in the province of Alberta, we are spending the day reflecting on the profession and what it means to all of us. Share your thoughts with us too!

Translation connects people. The first thing people think of when it comes to translation is that it connects people who do not read and write in the same language, and it facilitates the sharing of ideas and stories that would otherwise not be shared across the world. Translation gets to the heart of our humanity. As language-immersed beings, we interpret our world through the languages we speak and the words we label things with. Translation gives us some access to those ways of being in the world and gives host to a cache of narratives and histories we otherwise would fail to be enriched by.

Translation thrives on diversity. Similar to the connection piece, translation, by definition, thrives on the unwavering diversity that is humankind. Without this exceptional celebration of difference, translation would be a moot point. When we seek to translate, we accept people and their cultures as they are and we are striving to know more about them on their terms and in their terms – literally!

Translation facilitates justice. There is no justice if the person who requires access to it is inhibited due to language barriers. Translation allows for full access to due process because it allows individuals to tell the stories that have so deeply affected their lives. It allows them to hear and be heard.

Translation builds community. If you can communicate with people, you can join forces with them. Translation allows for the building of community by creating sharing experiences. It is this experiential aspect that brings people together.

Translation sparks innovation. All the way through human history, the translation of texts and information have allowed human beings to combine and innovate to create new knowledge, information and technology. As an example, without translation into Arabic, the great Greek philosophies might be lost to history.

Translation saves lives. Not only does translation give people access to adequate medical care in certain circumstances which can save their life, there are a multitude of other ways that translation can save lives. It could be in the sharing of medical research information about life-saving vaccines or pharmaceuticals; it could be in the sharing of agricultural information that will allow for the better growing of food with which to feed people; it could be the sharing of information related to a particular regional conflict that might have consequences for building peace.

Ultimately, with hundreds of global languages and billions of people, it is inevitable that we will need to communicate and the only way to facilitate this is the hard work of translators like our members every single day. Happy Translation Day everyone!