International Translation Day
Every year on 30 September, International Translation Day is celebrated. The aim of the day is to shed a light on translation professions and the future of translation.
The future of the translation profession
30 September is also the day of St Jerome, a Church Father who translated the Bible into the Latin in use at the time, the Vulgate. He is also considered the patron saint of translators.
The most translated text is the Bible, from which at least one book has been translated into 3384 languages. For this reason, the Bible is also particularly suitable for comparing languages with each other or how they have developed. In second place is Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "The Little Prince".
The job description of translators and interpreters has changed a lot due to digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence. Many even believe that machine processes will replace humans entirely. However, this is unlikely, as a computer will not understand humour, irony or sarcasm, and these cannot be translated 1:1. This is because a translation does not only consist of a purely semantic transfer. Rather, knowledge of the world is also required in order to strike the right note in diplomatic texts, for example. This is the task of the translation profession. Automated translations, however, can support humans and, for example, do the "rough" translation in advance. This would speed up the entire translation process.
Nowadays, people already pay attention to a certain "translatability" in texts. For this, texts should contain a simple sentence structure or be peppered with bullet points, as well as be concentrated on the essentials.
International Translation Day has a different motto every year. This year's motto is "A world without barriers".
What could such a world without barriers look like?
- One barrier that both translators and AI-supported translation measures can overcome is language barriers. Translators are important not only at official events, but also as language mediators when migrants visit doctors or go to the authorities. Videos of any kind, whether entertaining or explanatory, have become an integral part of daily life and exclude certain linguistic minorities if they are not translated. Adequate translation comes only from the contribution of human expertise.
- Furthermore, 430 million people worldwide are profoundly hearing impaired. Ideally, a sign language interpreter should always be available to assist them at events. Ideally, signs in the respective language are inserted into videos. However, this is not yet automated on many platforms. Subtitles can help. The barrier of "hearing" should be overcome when purely auditory media such as podcasts are used. Here, too, transcripts for reading along or automated subtitles can be embedded.
- Another translational action that overcomes barriers is the embedding of audio descriptions. However, this is not yet automated.
- On a last note, as a translation process, it is equally important to offer texts (whether spoken or written) in easy language.
A single person trained as a translator or interpreter cannot overcome all these barriers and it also exceeds the classical, populist definitions of this profession.
Not all barriers can be overcome, but translators make a crucial contribution.