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Connecting Worlds: Celebrating Coming Together Through Translation


In a world that grows wider by the minute, translators and interpreters are a precious resource. With individuals, organisations and societies living, breathing and operating in an ever-expanding multilingual and global environment, the ability to build linguistic bridges is invaluable and essential to keep the world connected.  


Today, we celebrate International Translation Day to highlight the work of the linguists whose expertise makes communication possible across a range of channels, contexts and situations. The date (30th September) marks the feast of St Jerome, the priest, theologian and historian who translated the Bible into Latin and is now usually known as the patron saint of translators. 


In 2017, the UN adopted the 71/288 resolution to officially mark the day and recognise “the practical contribution of language professionals, both in conference servicing and in the field, to furthering the cause of the United Nations, including in the maintenance of peace and security, peacekeeping, the promotion of human rights and operational activities for sustainable development”.  


Meanwhile, the International Federation of Translators (FIT) has promoted the event since its creation, in 1953. It also celebrates every year with a different theme.  


United after 18 months apart 


The theme the FIT picked for the 2021 International Translation Day is 'United in translation'. This choice reflects the idea of a world slowly coming back together following months of separation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In this reunion, linguists are essential, as they are the ones holding the keys to the rebuilding of the connection between individuals, businesses and organisations that was lost during the hiatus. 


'United in translation' also reflects the vital role of linguists in communicating and making sense of the ongoing experience of the pandemic, a global event shared by millions across the world beyond a specific territory, culture or language.  


As David van Roon, one of our Dutch translators, explained: "Just when the pandemic started in April last year, I saw a drastic decrease in the workload [...]. I had already made peace with this lower workload, when at the start of May projects picked up again, and then the workload only grew. All companies and institutions wanted to know how people fared under these new, uncharted conditions. We, as translators, were there to help translate these experiences everyone was going through, to show that we were all experiencing the same, and would have to find solutions together." 


Likewise, British Sign Language and English> Spanish interpreter Arantxa Barbarin Gonzalez recounted: "In the middle of a pandemic, which quite literally kept us apart, I think it is important to acknowledge how essential the language industry has been in keeping us connected. Getting through this global crisis has required unprecedented cooperation between countries, and language professionals have undoubtedly been part of that recovery process, from translating Covid-19 guidance into different languages to providing remote interpreting when face-to-face meetings were no longer an option." 


A post-Covid world: the future of translation 


The 2021 theme is in some ways a meeting point of past, present and future. It reflects on the last 18 months, largely governed by Covid, but also looks towards the future, leading to an exploration of what being united in translation means in this new reality, where the language services industry (as well as several other sectors) has undergone deep changes.  


Many of these changes, such as the growth of machine translation and the refinement of AI-enhanced tools, as well as the move towards remote work, were already on the rise years before 2020. However, Covid-19 sped up these transitions dramatically. Interpreting is the clearest example of how the pandemic turned the entire industry upside down, forcing it to adjust to a new context. At THG Fluently, video interpreting jumped 100% year-on-year in 2020, and 60% of all interpreting jobs were carried out through phone services. 


The question now lies in what the coming years look like, following these pandemic-related metamorphoses, and how the language services industry will continue to evolve. So, we asked a few of our linguists what they expect for the future. 


Alessandra Milan, English, Spanish and French> Italian sworn translator, doesn’t think the effects of Covid-19 on the industry will be long-lasting: "I’m not really sure there will be any durable changes. Frankly I believe that the language industry will continue trying to find a difficult balance between quality (of the translations), time (deadlines) and money (rates)!" 


Meanwhile, for Jennifer Douillard, English>French translator, the collaboration of linguists and technology tools will pave the way for broader solutions: "With the advancements of technology, these [linguist] roles are bound to evolve in interesting ways, with an increase in collaboration, with the technology and other actors, to give a more comprehensive service. Despite the evolution, I believe that the roles will continue to bring people together." 


No matter what the future looks like, at THG Fluently we will continue bringing people, cultures and businesses together through our expert language services, as we’ve done over the past 18 years. So, if you’d like to know more about how we can help you, feel free to get in touch.

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