Translating a New Global Understanding

25th September 2019

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“Writers make national literature, while translators make universal literature.”— José Saramago, Portuguese writer and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature

Did you know there are thought to be as many as 7,000 living languages that exist on Earth? And that the Asia-Pacific region accounts for the most number of spoken languages, at a little over 2,000 languages?

Imagine, then, what would happen if there was no bridge to bring all these different languages together. It is the translators and interpreters of the world who serve as this bridge, connecting people and cultures together and enabling them to communicate. Translation is the key to understanding cultures better, because language is complex—humans from diverse cultural backgrounds attach different meanings to words, expression and tone. Translation and interpretation play a pivotal role in helping people understand one another’s perspectives.

It’s fitting then, that there is a special day of the year that celebrates the profession. International Translation Day is on 30 September annually, in sync with the Feast of St. Jerome, who is generally regarded as the Patron Saint of translators. He was one of the first translators to translate the Bible into Latin. The profession of translation is, in fact, more than 2,000 years old. It is believed that the Old Testament, which was translated into Greek in the 3rd century BC, is the oldest translation in the world. This day of celebration isn’t something of a new-age trend either; it’s been around since 1953 to coincide with the establishment of the International Federation of Translators (FIT). The 2017, the United Nations officially recognised the day as a holiday too.

Each year, International Translation Day has a theme. This year, in keeping with the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, the theme Translation and Indigenous Languages celebrates and recognises the importance of Indigenous languages the world over. The need of the hour is to acknowledge and talk about how the world’s rich cultural montage is slowly but steadily being swept away with the tides of ever-expanding globalisation.

So, let’s embrace and applaud every language and culture of the world, and let’s celebrate the translators and interpreters who, with their work, not only keep these languages from fading into oblivion, but break down language barriers to keep the bridge of communication between different cultures alive.

Did You Know?

The English verb “translate” originates from the word “translatus,” which is a form of “transferre,” a Latin verb that means ‘to bring or carry over.’

According to sources, approximately one-third of all languages are ‘endangered.’

With close to 850 different languages, Papua New Guinea is said to have the most number of languages within a single country!

According to a UNESCO database titled Index Translationum, the top three most translated authors are Agatha Christie (over 7,200 translations), Jules Verne (over 4,700 translations) and William Shakespeare (over 4,200 translations).

The most translated book in the world is believed to be the Holy Bible. Guess what the second-most translated book supposedly is? Pinocchio! Image from

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster