International Translation Day is on 30th September – it was originally set up in 1953 and it coincides with the Feast of St Jerôme, the patron saint of translators (and also librarians).
St Jerôme, a priest and historian, was born Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus in about the year 347. He is noted for being the first person to translate the Bible from Hebrew into Latin and for his many other commentaries on biblical texts.
International Translation Day is a chance for translators across the world to think a little about their profession and make time to attend special events such as this one http://www.freewordcentre.com/events/detail/international-translation-day-2014. It’s a great time to meet up with other professionals, discuss challenges and celebrate successes in the industry.
In the 25 years that I have been a professional translator, we have seen so many changes. When I first began, translations were done on typewriters with texts posted to clients once complete. Any research needed was done by getting on the bus and travelling to the nearest large library that held specialist dictionary collections. Each translator held a small collection of their own dictionaries, often sourced by going on the train to London to browse the extensive shelves of curious volumes held by Grant & Cutler (www.grantandcutler.com). There was also limited cooperation between freelance translators in an industry which seemed in many ways archaic and old-school.
Over the years we have seen the advent of computers (I still remember my very first 386 with tractor-fed dot matrix printer!), fax machines, dial-up internet and now high-speed broadband. Technology and in particular the internet has speeded up the translation process, with CAT tools and on-line research facilities being my personal favourite inventions. A quick online search for a particular word can bring not only dictionary definitions, but articles, photographs, suggested translations and related training materials, making the translator’s job much easier. The human limitation of being able to cope with around 2000 words a day remains however, even if many other processes have improved.
On International translators Day this year, we’ll be thinking about our colleagues in other countries. We now work with many, many more overseas translators than when I started out. Improved communication now means that we can successfully include them as a valuable part of our team, which would just have been impractical 25 years ago. The translation industry as a whole has benefitted enormously, with linguists now working flexibly from any location across many time zones.
We’ll also be thinking about the role translation has to play not only in advancing the fortunes of businesses, but also in humanitarian causes: projects such as www.translatorswithoutborders.org or the work done by the Red Cross linguists for example. Translators and interpreters are helping communities cope with war, natural disaster and emergencies across the globe, using their skills to bring people together and provide support.
Translation has changed so much in my lifetime and will no doubt continue to do so - let’s celebrate our achievements so far on September 30th and embrace the possibilities that this fantastic profession offers for the future.