September 30th marks International Translation Day. The holiday coincides with the feast day for St. Jerome who is credited with the translation of the Bible into Latin.

Obviously I am biased about the importance of the day. I think it is a great opportunity to think about all the ways translation and interpretation activities support the global economy. Here are some examples of how folks involved in the language business make our everyday life possible:

  • Translation of product literature and documentation allows us to buy products from almost anywhere in the world.
    • And of course the reverse is true! Now US companies can sell their goods or services almost anywhere in the world.
  • Telephonic interpreters allow physicians and health care professionals to better communicate with patients.
    • Law enforcement and first responders use these services as well.
  • Aid workers are extremely dependent on language services in developing countries, here is a great article from the folks at Translators without Borders.
  • Both telephonic interpreters and onsite interpreters allow for Human Resource professionals to roll out benefits presentations, training initiatives and safety courses.
  • Interpreters and ESL instructors are incredibly important in education today. Many school districts are teaching students that are new to the US from a host of countries. One of the districts we support works in 10 different languages.
  • The legal system depends on translation and interpretation to keep cases moving through the judicial system. Many states now have systems to properly qualify interpreters for the courts.
    • Legal translation assists companies in merger and acquisition strategies – one of the most interesting projects we have ever handled required two of our translators to board a private jet in Milwaukee en route to New York where they spent 12 hours in a boardroom reviewing materials in three different languages as part of a due diligence effort for an acquisition.
  • Translation of e-commerce sites and apps allow for whole new markets, this includes popular video games and entertainment apps.
  • Narration, voiceover and subtitling efforts allow for the entertainment industry to release their movies anywhere in the world. Yes this post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t talk about Frozen being released in 25 languages. Have a look at this post from Disney and now you can sing “Let it go” in all 25 languages!
    • Literary translation is also extremely important, think of Harry Potter and how it was published in 68 languages or going way back and looking at the translation of important classics like Dante’s Inferno, the discussion on this site is quite interesting around which translation is best.
    • Corporations will also create commercials, infomercials and training materials using these same services.

I haven’t listed all of the different applications for translation and interpretation services. The list is endless. But I hope this list helps you think about how language services make your life easier.

In closing, I really like this reversible text performance by Erik Skuggevik for The Norwegian Association of Literary Translators.

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