International Translation Day 2010
Translation Quality for a Variety of Voices
Our planet is rich in language diversity. The estimated six to seven thousand languages spoken around the globe are the repository of our collective memory and intangible heritage. But the linguistic and cultural diversity they offer is under threat: 96% of these languages are spoken by only 4% of the world’s population and hundreds of them will soon be lost forever.
UNESCO and the United Nations have called on their Members States to support and protect the range of languages spoken by the peoples of the world. UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, adopted in 2001, states that ‘cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature’.
Translators, interpreters and terminologists, indispensable as mediators in interlingual and cultural contexts, have a special responsibility to help preserve multilingualism and promote smooth interaction between all the world’s languages. The burgeoning growth in information technologies, the widening reach of the Internet, the expansion of trade globally and ever-increasing scientific and cultural cooperation have undoubtedly enhanced the role of translators and interpreters in the modern world and ushered in a ‘time of plenty’. This has in turn increased the burden of responsibility on language professionals: their work must meet exacting standards of accuracy and quality yet lose none of the nuances of the original language.
Translation, one of the oldest professions, now sees increasing complexity in its environment. Translators do not simply need to have mastery of the languages out of which and into which they translate. They need narrower and deeper specialisations, balanced with broad general knowledge and cultural understanding. They must have a good grasp of the subject matter they are translating and they need to be competent in the latest information technologies. This combination of skills underpins the translation quality so necessary for smooth interaction between peoples and cultures in the modern world.
Many countries have active national associations of translators, interpreters and terminologists which play a major role in improving the quality of translation and developing professional standards and
recommendations. The International Federation of Translators (FIT) unites these associations, helping them to benefit from shared knowledge and experience. It aims to harmonise translation standards and seeks conformity for translation quality criteria. It also encourages the establishment of new translation associations in countries where they do not yet exist and nurtures their early development. In this way FIT is able to meet its responsibility to promote, protect and preserve the diversity of the world’s languages and cultures.