Today is International Translation Day, and as far back as 1991, the International Federation of Translators (FIT) promoted the idea of the day as a means of supporting the profession, and as a mark of solidarity across the worldwide translation community.
On 24 May 2017, the United Nations General Assembly declared 30 September International Translation Day and invited international and regional organisations to observe the day as a means of raising awareness of the importance of professional translation.
For 2020 celebrations, FIT states that It wants to highlight the importance of translators, terminologists and interpreters in managing crisis situations, both on the international scale as well as on the national and local scale in ensuring the flow of information between all language groups.
FIT’s theme for this year is, not surprisingly: Finding the words for a world in crisis
A call to action and a reminder of this most interesting of years. One that has touched all countries, all nationalities, and added COVID-19 to all languages.
Globally, and locally, this notion of a connected community without language barriers is fundamental to the work of translators and interpreters, and best captured in the words of the United Nations:
“International Translation Day is meant as an opportunity to pay tribute to the work of language professionals, which plays an important role in bringing nations together, facilitating dialogue, understanding and cooperation, contributing to development and strengthening world peace and security.”
The day is also, and not by coincidence, the feast of Saint Jerome, considered to be the patron saint of translators. But who was this man?
St. Jerome, Eusebius Hieronymus, was born about 347 in Dalmatia and died a little over seventy years later in Bethlehem.
He was a biblical translator, traditionally regarded as the most learned of the Latin Fathers. He lived for a time as a hermit, became a priest, served as secretary to Pope Damasus I, and in about 389 established a monastery at Bethlehem.
St. Jerome was a learned scholar, and his career was a turbulent combination of scholarship and asceticism*, and his correspondence is reputedly an exciting source for the historian, Scripture student, and theologian.
His influence was far-reaching and profound, particularly so in the early Middle Ages, primarily through the Vulgate; however, and importantly, also through his work as an exegete** and humanist, and that he transmitted much of Greek thought to the West.
St. Jerome, the patron saint of translators and interpreters was frequently depicted dressed in the robes of a cardinal, a symbol of his stature as a model humanist.
Perhaps, on reflection, underscoring the value of the translation profession beyond language and into the realms of a more connected, and peaceful, global community.
Happy International Translation Day to one and all from everyone at NAATI.
* Asceticism is the practice of the denial of physical or psychological desires in order to attain a spiritual ideal or goal. Hardly any religion has been without at least traces or some features of asceticism
** Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, particularly a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for work with the Bible.