Did you know that language professionals have a whole day dedicated to them? Coming up on September 30th is International Translation Day. Read on to find out where this day comes from, how it’s celebrated and how translation is helping the world.

What is International Translation Day, and why do we celebrate it?

On International Translation Day, we pay tribute to the work of language professionals around the world. Translation (= written) and interpreting (= spoken) play an important role in bringing different countries together. They enable open, clear communication and contribute to economic development and world peace.

Who invented International Translation Day?

In 2017, the General Assembly declared September 30th as International Translation Day. The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations (UN). To honor the occasion, 11 nations signed the draft resolution for International Translation Day: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Paraguay, Qatar, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

But the origins of this day go back much further than that.

Why September 30th?

Having been translated into 636 languages, the Bible is the world’s most translated document to date. The original bible translator was St. Jerome, who’s considered the patron saint of translators. He was an Italian priest and died on September 30th, 420. That’s why International Translation Day is sometimes also referred to as St. Jerome’s Day.

Ever since 2005, the UN holds a St. Jerome Translation contest. But even long before then, the International Federation of Translators (FIT) has encouraged St. Jerome’s Day celebrations since its establishment in 1953.

How has International Translation Day been celebrated over the years?

In the past, the FIT issued press releases to all its member associations suggesting celebratory activities, such as awarding diplomas to young translators or welcoming new translators into professional associations. One of the reasons behind these activities was to raise public awareness about the sometimes misunderstood profession of translators and interpreters.

Today, we have three main PR activities to celebrate International Translation Day:

  • for the public: to raise awareness about the profession and the wider translation industry
  • for translators: to award diplomas or prizes to honor representatives of the profession
  • for translation associations: to promote training for members and recruit new ones

Social media is also a popular playground for International Translation Day. Language professionals around the world share posts on their feeds to celebrate their profession and industry.

Human translation or AI and machine translation?

Language professionals have been dealing with the threat of AI and machine translation for decades. Google Translate, DeepL and a variety of other AI-driven translation tools have surged in popularity. And while they can be helpful in some scenarios, machine translation cannot replace human translation.

Why is that? For one thing, AI can’t grasp linguistic nuances as effectively as humans can. Think of life-critical instructions on food labels or medicine or even a large corporation’s marketing material. Would you trust a machine to not only translate all the components but also relay crucial cultural references? Most likely not. Plus, a company’s reputation can suffer quite a bit when bypassing human translation in favor of machine translation to ‘save’ money.

There are endless examples of machine translation gone wrong. As funny as mishaps like this one may be, they can also cause serious confusion or even harm.

At the end of the day, humans buy from humans, not machines. Convincing customers to buy a specific product or service goes far beyond words. What you need here is cultural sensitivity, empathy and an ability to zero in on desires and pain points.

What are the most translated languages of 2022?

According to translation service provider Wordemy, these are the 10 most frequently translated languages of 2022:

Language: Speakers around the world:
Chinese 1.2 billion
Spanish 399 million
English 335 million
Hindi 260 million
Arabic 242 million
Portuguese 203 million
Bengali 189 million
Russian 166 million
Japanese 128 million
Swahili 100 million

Which sectors benefit most from translation and why?

There’s been an enormous increase in demand for the healthcare sector in recent years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Interpreters were 64 per cent more in demand, particularly in the fields of life sciences, medical and pharmaceuticals.

E-commerce and digital services have also seen a surge in demand. People were buying more products for their homes and work-from-home setups.

Demand for hospitality and travel has decreased due to governmental regulations, such as lockdowns.

What can we expect from the translation industry in 2023 and beyond?

Global connections are a fundamental part of any international business nowadays. Companies expect to break into new markets and break down language barriers quicker than ever. This is particularly true for marketing. That’s why creative translation services such as ‘transcreation’ will surge moving forward.

Based on the developments in today’s economy, we can expect Chinese, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese and Arabic to be even more in demand in 2023. The sectors expected to grow the most include healthcare and insurance, renewable energy, IT, real estate, fast-moving consumer goods and automobiles.



Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome#/media/File:Antonello_da_Messina_-_St_Jerome_in_his_study_-_National_Gallery_London.jpg