The history of International Translation Day
St Jerome’s Day, as International Translation Day is commonly known, was celebrated on 30 September. In this article, we look at how this day came about and what types of themes it has considered over the years.
St Jerome, the Bible translator, has always been considered to be the patron saint of translators and interpreters throughout the world. For a long time, the days and weeks (and sometimes months) around 30 September have therefore been used by translators and interpreters (and their associations) to celebrate the occasion. Ever since FIT (International Federation of Translators) was established in 1953, St Jerome’s Day celebrations have been encouraged and promoted by the FIT Council and Executive Committee in an ad hoc fashion. It was not until 1991 that the Public Relations Committee of FIT launched the idea of an International Translation Day.
The FIT Council took up the idea and decided to suggest to FIT member associations that they join forces and show their solidarity on St Jerome’s Day in an effort to promote the translation profession in their own countries (not necessarily only in Christian countries). This would be an opportunity to display pride in a profession that is becoming increasingly essential as borders are tumbling worldwide.
Since 1991, the FIT Secretariat has collected reports by FIT member associations on the different ways they have celebrated International Translation Day. My paper is, therefore, a short summary of these reports, as well as a brief account of the evolution of International Translation Day celebrations throughout the world. No official motto was announced for International Translation Day 1991. The motto of the Brighton FIT Congress was then also chosen for the celebrations in 1992 – “Translation – the vital link”
The slogan for 1993 was “Translation, a pervasive presence” (La traduction, realité omniprésente). That year, the press release contained some valuable information for consumers.
The motto for International Translation Day 1994 was “The many facets of translation” (Les multiples visages de la traduction), with Jean F Joly, the FIT President, defining scientific and technical translators, media translators, terminologists, conference interpreters, community interpreters, court interpreters, sign-language interpreters and “translatologists” in his press release on the occasion.
The theme for 1997, finally, was “Translating in the Right Direction” (Traduire dans le bon sens). The idea came from the Finnish FIT member association. There, colleagues thought that with all their many translation assignments into languages other than Finnish (in relation to Finland’s entry into the EU), colleagues were losing sight of the fact that the best translation/interpretation is done into one’s mother tongue. I hope that with this statement I have given you plenty of material for discussion.
Should one or should one not translate only into one’s mother tongue? What are the advantages, what are the drawbacks? Etc., etc.!
The theme selected for 1998 is “Good Translation Practices” (Le professionalism en traduction). The subject matter is highly appropriate since quality assurance is on everybody’s mind and needs to be considered by translators as well. The FIT is contributing to a possible solution on the EU’s European Translation Platform.
It is encouraging to see that International Translation Day has developed into a genuine event in our profession. All over the world, translators take the opportunity to think with pride in their work and their achievements. From year to year, more associations in a growing number of countries report on their activities. Let us hope that the snowball effect will continue!