By Kate Ritchie
International Translation Day, celebrated on 30 September every year, presents an opportunity to pay tribute to the work of language professionals – translators and interpreters – who play a vital role in understanding and humanity.
Indeed, the value of translation is in the news regularly and was highlighted as a factor helping keep people safe during COVID. And right now, The Voice Referendum is not only giving indigenous Australians a chance to be recognised in our Constitution, but also enabling people from all language backgrounds to understand and exercise their rights by voting on 15 October.
Whether it is bringing peoples or nations together, facilitating understanding and cooperation, contributing to world peace and security, forging business connections, or exercising our democratic rights, it is a human right to have access to translation services.
Today we honour all of the translators and interpreters who forged pathways, who practise today or who are studying to become our future.
Saint Jerome poring over his translation
History: The Legacy of St. Jerome, the Patron Saint of Translators
International Translation Day is not a randomly chosen date. It coincides with the feast of St. Jerome, a Christian scholar and translator responsible for translating most of the Bible into Latin. This prodigious effort by St. Jerome set a standard for translation as a meticulous and scholarly pursuit. In his honour, the International Federation of Translators (FIT) promoted International Translation Day, a day to recognise the invaluable work of translators everywhere.
United Nations Translation
The importance of translation is so profound that in 2017, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution confirming 30 September as International Translation Day. This was not just to honour translators, but also to highlight the role of professional translation in connecting nations, fostering peace, understanding, and cooperation, and ensuring clear diplomatic communication.
The UN, of course, relies on translations, considering its multilingual nature, where documents, discussions, and resolutions need to be made available in all six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.
With globalisation and the rise of the internet, the demand for translation services has skyrocketed. While the UN recognizes six official languages, the most popular languages for translation worldwide often reflect global economic, political, and cultural dynamics. English, Chinese, Spanish, French, German, and Arabic dominate as some of the most translated languages, representing broad swathes of business, culture, and diplomacy. However, the demand can vary based on regional specifics, industry needs, and emerging global markets.
Multicultural Australia: A Mosaic of Languages
Australia, often celebrated as one of the most multicultural countries in the world, offers a unique perspective on the importance of translation. The last few decades have seen a surge in the number of people from various ethnic backgrounds calling Australia home. As of the last census in 2021, over half of Australians were either born overseas or had at least one parent born overseas. In terms of languages spoken, after English, the most spoken languages in Australia include:
Multicultural marketing starts with language
Of these, Chinese languages collectively (Mandarin, Cantonese and other Chinese languages) make up 4% of the total and are always top of the list for multilingual translation services.
There are 250 indigenous languages including 800 dialects native to Australia. Each language is specific to a place or people (Aiatsis.gov.au)/ According to the ABC, Punjabi is the fastest growing language in Australia – ahead of Hindi and Nepali who are greater in numbers
The Importance of Multicultural Translation in Australia
For non-native English speakers in Australia, translation services play an essential role. Whether it’s accessing vital health services, understanding legal documentation, or simply integrating into Australian society, translation eases the transition for many migrants and refugees.
Governments in Australia recognise the importance of providing services to its multicultural population, providing translated resources in various domains, from healthcare to civic responsibilities such as a referendum. Savvy businesses also harness the value of multicultural marketing tapping in to the diverse linguistic skills available to pitch their offerings. The work of translators ensures that everyone, irrespective of their linguistic background, has access to information and services.
International Translation Day serves as a reminder of the quiet yet impactful role translators play in shaping our interconnected world. From St. Jerome’s monumental Bible translation to today’s global landscape where a business document might be translated into multiple languages overnight, the essence remains the same. Translation is not just about converting words from one language to another; it’s about bridging cultures, fostering understanding, and ensuring that everyone has a voice and a chance to be heard. In places like Australia, where the harmony of multiculturalism is celebrated, the role of translation becomes even more prominent, contributing to our inclusive society.