Why do we study languages?
“Because we like them”. This could be one of the most common answers we could turn up with. But, what if we would like to go farther? What if we would like to use this knowledge in a professional way? The first option that comes to our minds is “philology”, the study of the language itself and its literature. However, there exist other options, and the one we are going to talk about is “translation and interpreting”. We are going to state briefly what it consists of and why it may seem unknown for some people.
On the 30th of September we celebrate The International Day of Translation and Interpreting. This date represents the death of Saint Jerome, translators and interpreters’ patron saint. He was the first person who translated the Bible into a Romance language in the 3th century. The International Federation of Translators and Interpreters was the organism that boosted this event in 1991. One of the objectives of this celebration is giving the translators their deserved recognition. In spite of being one of the most ancient jobs in the world –and it still is present today–, few people know the point of it.
That is why we are going to point out some important characteristics of this job. This is our tiny tribute in its day.
We do not exaggerate when saying that it is one of the most ancient jobs in the world. The Bible reflects the origin of languages in one of its passages in the Genesis. It tells how some people try to build a tower so that they can reach heaven. However, God punishes them because of the level of pride and arrogance they experience. The punishment consists of the division of languages, resulting in the implicit difficulty of communication –a problem that still persists these days–. This is known the Babel Tower.
The Bible is the most translated book through history; we can find it in more than three hundred languages. From that, we can infer the importance of Saint Jerome as the translators’ patron saint.
Why is translation important in our society nowadays?
Well, we can say it in one word: GLOBALIZATION. If we stop to think about how many times we face a translated text during the day, we could say that translation does imply a noticeable engine of global communication. Some examples are instructions for use of electronics made abroad, books written by foreign authors, some news about equity markets, Hollywood movies... But there are much more behind it.
However, do we really know what the key elements of translation are?
Have you ever tried to translate a text into your mother tongue? If not, try it and tell us about it. But, for the time being, we are going to deep into this job and prove some frequent myths wrong.
It is not necessary for a translator to be a bilingual person. It is just the tip of the iceberg. Translators are intercultural mediators, that is, they must know about culture of the languages –taking into account their corresponding countries—they are working with. There is formal education in translating and interpreting, then it is something that can be learnt.
Translators are not dictionaries, neither are they machines. They posses language and cultural knowledge, apart from translation techniques. They also have skills on information research, because they face new texts every day, dealing with different themes. This implies a continuous learning –even self-learning. Therefore, we can state that wide cultural knowledge is a good starting point.
There is something left here, the other half of translation… interpreting. But we will tell you about it at another post.