International Translation Day 2017

In our digital world, a product or service is often marketed in many countries, and information appears to flow instantly across most national boundaries. Yet we don’t want other societies to impose their way of thinking on us. How does translation relate to the desire to access everything while retaining diversity?

Cultural diversity is closely tied to linguistic diversity. Losing your language means losing a part of your cultural identity. Translation is important both to maintaining and learning from a culture.

Globalisation brings greater international cooperation, but the downside of that can be cultural homogenisation, which in turn threatens diversity. In an effort to access global markets effectively, products and services are often translated with sensitivity to the target culture, rather than imposing the culture of the source content. This type of translation, called localisation, thus supports diversity.

Language transcends physical barriers of distance, borders and time. Translation of literature and other culture-specific material, such as foreign film through subtitling and dubbing, is different from localisation. In contrast to localisation, this type of translation typically aims to open a window to the source culture, and thus helps share local insights and alternative views of the world, giving the experience of another culture through one’s own language.

Both localisation and source-culture-specific translation are challenging intellectual tasks that involve much more than mechanically matching up the words and phrases of two languages. Only skilled human translators are able to perform these creative types of translation, which help us maintain our own culture and learn from other cultures, respectively.

Each culture in the world should be in control of its destiny. By promoting diversity of cultures and languages, we can hope to create a bright and colourful world, full of possibilities for learning, growing and sharing a peaceful vision for humanity based on mutual respect. We thank translators for their contribution to diversity as we celebrate International Translation Day 2017.


ITD 2017 poster, designed by Veva Graphics.