'United in Translation': A beautiful reflection of multilingualism and cultural diversity

On World Translation Day, let's have a look at how translation plays an important role in connecting people all over the world. This year's theme, 'United in Translation', reflects its true goal

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)

M J Warsi

As per United Nations, International days are occasions to educate the people on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The United Nations observes designated days, weeks, years, and decades, each with a theme, or topic.

By creating special observances, the United Nations promotes international awareness and action on these issues. Each international day offers many opportunities to organise activities related to the theme of the day. United Nations General Assembly on May 24, 2017, adopted a resolution on the role of language professionals in connecting nations and fostering peace, understanding and development, and declared September 30 as International Translation Day. The day marks the celebration of the feast of St. Jerome, the Bible translator, who is considered the patron saint of translators.

The International Federation of Translators maintains operational relations with UNESCO and promotes International Translation Day. Each year, the International Federation of Translators chooses a theme for International Translation Day. This year, 2021, the theme is “United in Translation”.

India, being the richest linguistic nation in the world, has always cherished the beauty of multilingualism and cultural diversity of the community. There is growing awareness that languages play a vital role in preserving cultural diversity and strengthening knowledge society for a sustainable development. Similarly, translation plays an important role in developing one’s competence to have a better understanding of religious and cultural diversity through the meaning and expressions in any given language. As we all know, language is considered as very dynamic, complex with ever-evolving characteristics.

Translation as a discipline creates genuine interest and engagement with culture and society. Translation always helps to understand popular phrases, underlying sentiments, colloquialisms—to establish true understanding between people speaking different languages. The language itself reveals patterns of understanding and cultural perspective, socially and historically constructed. Language is essential beyond its purposes in communication; it reveals elements that are important for true cultural understanding. Translators usually have to deal with six different problematic areas in their work. These include lexical-semantic problems, grammar, syntax, rhetoric, and pragmatic and cultural problems.

In the context of globalization and in the post 9/11 environment, the usefulness of studying languages, to understand the culture and traditions of people living in different parts of the globe, is no longer contested. Divergent views concerning language and its many functions are reflected in differing approaches to the study of language. At one end, language is considered to be principally instrumental, a skill to use for communicating thought and information. On the other hand, language is understood as an essential element of a human being’s thought processes, perceptions, and self-expressions; and as such it is considered to be at the core of translingual and transcultural competence. While we use language to communicate our needs to others, language simultaneously reveals us to others and to ourselves. Language is a complex multifunctional phenomenon that links an individual to other individuals, to communities, and to national cultures.

According to Antar, “translation is a science, an art, and a skill”. It is a science in the sense that it necessitates complete knowledge of the structure and make-up of the two languages concerned. It is an art since it needs artistic talent to rebuild the original text in the form of a product that is presentable to the reader who is not supposed to be familiar with the original. It is also a skill because it reflects the ability to smooth over any difficulty in the translation, and the ability to provide the translation of something that has no equal in the target language.

Translation is ultimately a human activity which enables human beings to exchange ideas and thoughts regardless of the different tongues used. Translators and interpreters are playing a great role in society and academia and making sure that all voices are heard and understood by conveying information accurately and sensitively from one language to another.

However, problems are faced by the translators mainly while translating the religious, legal, technical, regional variants, local registers, feeling and emotions from one language to another language. Problems in translating text occur due to the differences in linguistic systems and languages mostly resulting from the nonequivalence between the source and target languages. There are no universal rules that can be applied to every problem of translation. Translators may approach the same problem in two very different ways and still be able to solve it. The work of a translator would become relatively noble when he or she would translate for the people whose stories do not get heard either because they do not have the voice or they do not have access to opportunities to be heard.

Translation is intended to restate in one language what someone else said or wrote in another language. The translator is under obligation to coordinate his intention with the target reader’s expectations so that the product of his translation resembles the original text in terms of style and sense. It should be expressed in such a manner that it yields the intended meaning without putting the target reader into unnecessary processing effort. The translator’s competence to understand and render the message into the target language is born out of the translator’s cognitive and linguistic knowledge. A good piece of translation must deliver the message that is as closely equivalent as possible to the original text, however, the goal will always be to arrive at the outcome by relating the same meaning and message if possible, on the same level of generalization.

With the advancement in technology, the translation process has improved in recent years. Translators and experts are now able to use technology. Computer-assisted translation software is widely used, which includes terminology, spell-checking and translation memory tools for a better result. As we know India is blessed with a harmony of different languages and cultures. The role of translators would continue to be very important to build bridges of understanding between people and cultures.

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