From fountain pens to typewriters to speech recognition. From index cards to electronic dictionaries and the knowledge highway.From the Nuremberg trials to telephone and video remote interpreting.
As the world changes, so do many aspects of the work of translators and interpreters. Graduates today can barely believe what they hear about the working conditions of their predecessors only 30 years ago. Today a wealth of information is at our fingertips. We have a plethora of tools to enable us to translate faster and more consistently. We can consult colleagues all over the world without leaving our desks.
For clients, too, translation has changed. No longer do they battle to find a local translator to meet their needs – professional associations all over the world have directories of members waiting to assist. They can send out a text before leaving the office in the evening and have the translation waiting when they come in again next morning, thanks to communication over time zones. They can balance their costs and their target audiences over different projects by using translators in different parts of the world. They can consult their own clients on the other side of the world or a doctor in another country owing to the availability of expert telephone interpreters. They can run a text through a machine translation program and get an immediate idea of what it is about.
All these things underlie the theme for International Translation Day 2015, which is: The Changing Face of Translation and Interpreting Le nouveau visage de la traduction et l’interprétation The changes present us with both new challenges and new opportunities. Speed, cost and volume are most often cited. But it is much more than that. For the practitioners they mean working smarter and being open to change, adapting to new changing roles, learning new skills and mastering new tools. But the basics do not change.
The role of translators and interpreters today is the same as it was a thousand years ago: to enable people to communicate. Quality remains the touchstone in any assignment and this still depends on the skill and experience of the translator or interpreter and selecting the right person for the job. Translators still have to craft each text to fit its purpose. Clients still need to brief the translator or interpreter of their needs properly. Translators still need to keep themselves fresh, up-to-date and on the ball through continuing professional development.
What will the face of Translation and Interpreting be in the future? For millennia, living and breathing translators or interpreters have been the embodiment of unparalleled linguistic skills, specialised training, professional conduct and a passion for their work. The best equipment can help them do an even better job, but cannot get to the heart and soul of a text or the nuances of negotiations. On International Translation Day 2015, therefore, let us celebrate the great advances that have been made in translation and interpreting, but most importantly celebrate the individuals who are at the heart of this profession and who make it possible for the world to be a global village but at the same time a universe full of possibilities in the past, at present and in the future.
English text: Marion Boers