It requires a bit of imagination to unlock the beauty and power of translation and interpretation. And to summon a high respect for interpreters and translators whose profession honors accuracy and, at times, transcreation.
Few people may think about how translation affects everyday life. But the truth is, the efforts of people to build bridges with people from other cultures, or even of different sensory afflictions, such as blindness or deafness, help make the world go round.
Everyone human craves communication, that is, to express themselves and feel heard. And the languages and systems we have developed to make sure everyone is connected to the web of humanity, maintained by a global fleet of professional translators, interpreters and localization experts, is something that deserves pondering. You will find that the profession is truly wondrous.
Since 1953, the world officially sets aside September 30th as International Translation Day. (Did you know this?) Originally a feast day honoring Saint Jerome, the day honors all people of the translation and interpretation professions, as well as all people who appreciate the overall contribution of multilingual experts of education, with a dedication to accuracy and excellence, provide to humanity.
To broaden your mind a bit, in the event you didn’t think much of the importance of translating before, here are six incredible ways translation touches people’s lives:
1. Interpreters Save Lives
Medical professionals from all around the world at times treat patients who don’t speak their language. When a patient meets a physician, every word in the exchange necessitates that both parties understand what is being communicated. This can span from the inquiry of symptoms, tissue testing instructions, diagnosis, to the communication of treatment, or a serious talk over the nature of the affliction and the likelihood of patient survival. Because the patient’s life is at stake, professional medical interpreters are vital for stepping in and translating the language pair, particularly if it involves complex medical terminologies.
2. Translators Help Win Wars
During World War II, the allies successfully used Navajo speakers to communicate important messages amongs themselves. They figured the Axis powers wouldn’t be able to understand what was being spoken. The concept of using language to ferry secret messages across borders was also very well exemplified by the successful liberation of Ingrid Betancourt from her FARC captors. (Read: The Code: A Declassified and Unbelievable Hostage Rescue Story) The Colombian army had send a hidden message to the hostages using the lyrics of a pop song. To this very day, counter-terrorist organizations use a combination of translators, linguists and code-creators to send communications to their allies hiding among mafia members, terrorist agents all over the world, and other nefarious elements of society. The reverse is also true, the same use code-breakers, linguists and translators to interpret messages passed between forces of oppression.
3. Translation Can Promote Peace
Interpreters and translators make international diplomacy possible on our world today. These highly qualified individuals do more than just translate official documents and speeches. Translators are often involved in drafting the exact wording of terms in treaties so vital to the interests of both parties. Interpreters, in turn, are intimately involved with the details and nuances of every private and public conversation global leaders have with each other. Professional interpreters have the power to ensure peace by averting the kinds of misunderstandings that lead to altercations, in-fighting and even, war.
4. Translated Words Can Unify a People
In a country like the United States, where one out of every five residents speak a language other than English at home, translation plays a vital role in politics. Many a political candidate feature a translated version of their communications on their websites – typically in Spanish – and rely on interpreters to impart their political stances to voters who do not speak English. The U.S. government also employs thousands of translators and interpreters for courtroom procedures and government communications. These linguists are importantly tasked with ensuring the rule of democratic law amongs the many peoples of America.
5. Translation Creates Jobs
A 2012 Common Sense Advisory report estimated the translation market to be worth $33 billion. According to the report, more than 26,000 companies around the world sell translation, interpretation and localization services. While most are small and medium-sized businesses, the need for translated messages and communications is a massive job creator. Every industry that exists in the world require specialized translators and interpreters to impart valuable knowledge, instructions and communications between different groups and parties. Whether you are talking about the sales, marketing, engineering, medical, law, science, academic industries -- what have you -- every subject under the sun is interpreted and translated so people around the world hungry for the knowledge can understand the core of what is being said.
6. Interpreters Communicate Art to the Impaired
In the United States, a new wave of sign language interpreters are powerfully and creatively communicating music to the hearing impaired. For decades, traditional American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters would simply stick to translating the lyrics of a song. However, today, new, notably female, interpreters such as Amber Galloway Gallego have arrived on the scene and are providing fresh, stylistic renderings of hundreds of popular songs while still maintaining to grammatically correct ASL. (Please see the video below to see an explanation of how she has broken through traditional signing to convey music to the hearing impaired.)
According to authors Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche of the book “Found in Translation,” 96.4 percent of the roughly 12,000 translators and interpreters they polled reported either being “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their work. This may astonish many a person who considers the job of translating texts and oral speech word-for-word a position not a worthwhile vocation. Consider the level of mastery that has to be attained in order to convey a faithful, accurate translation or interpretation. That way, the next time September 30 comes around – International Translation Day – you’ll be grateful for the roles translators and interpreters play in changing the lives of people around the world.