Blog – It’s All About Language

Happy International Translation Day!

Translators play an essential role in global politics and business, enhancing communication by correctly converting written material and their cultural references from one language to another. Their work is vital but often underappreciated and undervalued. However, this Wednesday is an opportunity to pay tribute to everything they do because it will be International Translation Day.

This annual event has been celebrated since 1953. It pays tribute to the often unsung work of translators, interpreters and terminologists and raises awareness of the translation profession.

translators working on laptops in a group

Why September 30?

The September 30 date was chosen because it is also the feast day of Saint Jerome, a fourth- and fifth-century priest and leading biblical scholar of his day. He is the patron saint of translators and was commissioned by Pope Damascus I to translate the Bible into Latin from the various translations in use. He was a good choice as he could speak and write Latin, Greek and Hebrew. The revered figure also translated part of the Hebrew Gospel into Greek.

His work made the Bible more accessible, improving on the several flawed translated versions that were in circulation.

UN Backing

In 2017 the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution formalising the day, recognising the role of translators in connecting nations around the world and “contributing to the development and strengthening world peace and security.”

The UN is one of the world’s largest employers of language professionals and among the jobs performed by the intergovernmental organisation’s translators are translating all manner of documents from every Member State. They cover every topic on the UN’s agenda, including security, development and human rights.

Themes

Each year, the commemorative event adopts a theme and launches a poster competition. Among the themes of previous years are:

  • Translation and indigenous languages
  • Translation: promoting cultural heritage in changing times
  • Translation and diversity
  • Translation and interpreting: connecting worlds
  • Language rights: essential to all human rights

The theme for this year’s International Translation Day is: Finding the words for a world in crisis. The winning poster features a large illustration of a coronavirus particle with its protein spikes and part of a world map covering half its surface.

The poster is available from the website of the International Federation of Translators. Click here. Translators are invited to download the artwork and use it to promote awareness of the day.

How is International Translation Day Celebrated?

There are many ways the day has been celebrated in previous years. For example, with workshops, seminars and other public-facing events. This year will be quite different with coronavirus restrictions in several countries, limiting the number of people that can meet in the same place.

Each year to commemorate the day, the United Nations hosts the UN St. Jerome Translation Contest, which rewards the best translations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Russian and Spanish.

Whether or not you are participating in any International Translation Day events, pause for a few moments on September 30 to think about translators and the vital work they do.

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