As is the case every year, World Translation Day was celebrated on September 30. This is an opportunity to pay tribute to the work of language professionals and the essential role they play in bringing nations closer together, facilitating dialogue, understanding and cooperation, contributing to development and strengthening world peace and security.
But, do you know why this particular day is celebrated?
Well, let’s look at a little bit of history.
Translation, the world’s oldest job
Many say that translation is the oldest craft in the world, because ever since humans from different places have felt the need to communicate, they have also needed help in understanding each other.
It is celebrated on September 30 because this is the feast day of St. Jerome, translator of the Bible and patron saint of translators. St. Jerónimo was a priest who lived in northwestern Italy, and has gone down in history for having translated into Latin most of the Bible from the manuscripts of the New Testament. He also translated part of the Hebrew Gospel into Greek.
International Translation Day has been celebrated since 1991 on the initiative of the International Federation of Translators (IFT). This year, it was celebrated under the slogan «A world without barriers«.
This organization brings together 100 associations representing more than 85,000 translators from 55 countries, and its mission is to promote professionalism and improve the working conditions of translators.
Translation relevance vs. «The cave of the translator»
Now more than ever, the consumption of content on digital platforms and the number of readers has increased considerably. Translation is present in our lives in numerous formats, since thanks to it we can watch a series dubbed into Spanish or enjoy it in its original version with subtitles, we can read our favorite book in any language thanks to the work of translators, etc. In short: translation helps to spread culture.
However, its relevance now goes far beyond the transmission of culture. It has also helped enormously in the process of globalization through the translation of new studies or technological advances, breaking down existing language barriers.
However, translators still do not enjoy the visibility they deserve. Many are still living in the famous «translator’s cave». Moreover, the practice of translation is a source of suspicion. Translating implies interpreting and, consequently, may generate reactions in terms of ethics, literalness or fidelity. The famous Italian expression «traduttore, traditore» translates as «translator, traitor» and refers to the lack of precision implicit in the act of translation.
So, as we mentioned, » translator, traitor» speaks of the inaccuracy, of the mistakes that some translators make. Although there is no such thing as a perfect or ideal translation, there are good translations and, undoubtedly, there are also bad ones. Translating is not only about saying «the same thing» in a different language. Umberto Eco states that one must also understand that one does not always say the same thing, but «almost» the same thing. The flexibility of this «almost» is crucial, because only a good translator will know how far they can stretch a translation and how they can do it.
Why should we celebrate this day?
As García Yebra, a famous Spanish translator, says, «A translation must say everything that the original says, say nothing that the original does not say, and say everything as correctly and naturally as the language into which it is translated allows». Moreover, he adds: «Translation has been perhaps the most important process for the propagation of culture».
The complexity of languages requires the presence of expert professionals who are able to facilitate communication between people who do not share the same language. This is essential to promote development and cultural diversity, i.e. translators have the ability to connect the realities of two different cultures.
However, in our day-to-day lives, we all find it very helpful to:
- Buy a household appliance or an electronic device and be able to read the instruction manual in our language.
- Be able to read scientific books or studies, translated into different languages, so that information and knowledge can reach all corners of the world.
- On the business level, allow companies to test new markets and expand their business.
In short, translation makes our lives easier and breaks down linguistic barriers. For these and many other reasons, International Translation Day is a very important day for all of us.