The theme of this year’s International Translation Day is indigenous languages. This celebration falls within 2019 marking the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, and could not be more timely.
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues reports that, “At present, 96 per cent of the world’s approximately 6,700 languages are spoken by only 3 per cent of the world’s population. Although indigenous peoples make up less than 6% of the global population, they speak more than 4,000 of the world’s languages. Conservative estimates suggest that more than half of the world’s languages will become extinct by 2100.”
So does this matter? Yes, absolutely … for all of us! Each and every language in our “global village” contributes to the world’s rich cultural diversity and understanding. As the International Federation of Translators (FIT-IFT) put it:
Losing a language is more than just losing words, it is a loss of unique cultural perspectives and narratives contained within the language and culture, along with its contribution to the richness of diversity.
On the FIT-IFT website, you can read more about Translation and Indigenous Languages and ITD 2019. There are various resources including a poster to download.
To mark ITD 2019, we have also produced a free e-card with some ornamental patterns based on various indigenous cultural motifs. You can click on the image for the full-size version or link to our e-card using this HTML:
In this era of globalization and mass communication, minority languages are increasingly in danger of dying, and many have already done so. We agree this is not only a linguistic loss, but a cultural one since a language embodies a whole way of seeing the world and may contain unique knowledge of it.
It is axiomatic that language helps us communicate. Professional translation can play an essential role in connecting peoples, communities and individuals – thereby fostering peace, understanding and development. On International Translation Day, we’ll be taking a moment to take a step back, consider this wider picture, and thank those who labour at translations and finding just the right turn of phrase all through the year!
The background of International Translation Day
International Translation Day dates back over 25 years, although WorldAccent first shared an International Translation Day card in 2008. Back then we noted:
The translation day was established in 1991 by the Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs (International Federation of Translators). The date of 30 September was chosen as it is the feast day of St. Jerome (347-420 AD), patron saint of translators, interpreters and librarians. The day celebrates and promotes translation as an essential activity in contemporary society – but one which too often remains invisible and ignored. Each year a particular theme, highlighting a different area of translation, is adopted
Please note that the motifs used are purely for decorative purposes and are not intended to convey any particular meaning here. However such visual art is often full of symbols, and there is much to be gained by those interested by exploring this. Some understandings are only known to people of certain communities or even only to sub-groups or individuals within the community. There are many examples around the world. One place to start learning more about Australian Aboriginal People’s art and symbolism is the Artlandish Gallery while Wikipedia has a broader round up of Visual arts by indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Meanwhile celebrations of ITD 2019 and Indigenous languages can be found around the world wide web. Proz have an online series of lectures later in the week about both translation and interpreting. English Pen host another of their popular annual symposia, entitled “Translating Today” asking what it means to be a translator working in this moment and exploring some of the theoretical and practical questions that raises.