Translation Facts: Tremendous Impacts on History, Economics and Politics
It makes sense that the transfer of information globally greatly impacts every aspect of life. Cultures rely on the preservation of their history to be passed down from generation to generation through the spoken and written word. International commercial transactions rely on foreign language translation for parties to establish agreements. The political landscape has always relied on clear and effective exchanges between governments for global collaboration. Translation between the thousands of written languages worldwide is an essential function for interpersonal and interorganisational communications.
Over time, the languages and dialects of geographic areas and even ethnic races morph. Therefore, the translation skills needed to keep up with these linguistic transformations have needed to advance just as quickly. Luckily, the world has nearly always contained polyglots willing to update their abilities to serve as intermediaries. Unfortunately, the extinction of languages is a significant area of concern for language scholars and practitioners worldwide. There are several known “last native speakers” of languages now ageing in their 80s and 90s. The race to download their vocabularies, semantics and linguistic intricacies is on.
The Translation Profession
Translating content from one language to another is how information is shared amongst cultures. Not all persons are gifted with the unique skills and abilities to effectively transform content between languages. Fortunately, this is a profession that has existed for millennia and is only becoming more relevant and critical as interpersonal communications and the transfer of information across the globe is now possible in seconds. Although translation technology is advancing, it is still not a match for the innate ability of the human brain to process, convert and convey meaning across languages.
The following industry characteristics illustrate the tremendous ongoing importance and influence of translation over the ages:
- Ancient Profession: Individuals have been translating written content from one language to another since 2,000 BCE. It may not be the world’s “oldest profession”, but it is well established, important, sustainable and legal. Note: Verbal interpretation obviously pre-dates written translation.
- Massive Industry: The global languages services market, or translation industry, has recently expanded to an estimated potential of just over $45 bn. Predictions for the year 2021 place the industry market potential at over $56 bn. It is estimated that there are over 330,000 professional translators worldwide. Given the number of informal freelancers performing translation services, this number could be increased significantly.
- Internationally Celebrated: The industry has its own internationally-recognised day of celebration. International Translation Day, 30 September, which honours the death of the Patron Saint of Translation, St Jerome.
- Endless Demand: Currently, there are 7,000 living languages in the world. With a world population of 7.7 bn, the need for content translation to make information widely accessible is endless.
- Costly Repercussions: There are numerous accounts of the costs of mistranslations of single words or phrases. From large corporations spending millions on brand damage control to political disasters resulting in catastrophic deaths. Many are not aware that the bombing of Hiroshima was due to a mistranslated communication between governments.
General Foreign Language & Translation Facts
- Translation Definition: Pronounced tran(t)s-ˈlā-shən, the English word is derived from the Latin word translationis, which means transporting or transferring something. In more modern times the definition has become “a rendering from one language to another or the product of such a rendering.”
- Common Translated Content: Books, communications, professional documents, government papers, promotional materials and, more recently, websites.
- Most Translated Content: The Bible (pieces translated into 3,000 languages), The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human (translated into 500+ languages) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses website (currently in 600 languages.)
- Top Languages: The most spoken languages in the world, based on the number of native speakers, are Chinese, Spanish, English, Arabic and Hindi.
- Translated Languages: (According to UNESCO’s Index Translationum database)
Of the source languages that are translated, the most often are English, French, German, Russian and Italian. The final translated target languages are most often German, French, Spanish, English and Japanese.
Ironically, the languages that are spoken by the highest number of people in the world do not match the most commonly translated languages. Obviously, there is a lot of work to do to translate content into Chinese, Arabic and Hindi.
At Renaissance Translations, we have a network of over 3,000 professional native speaking translators competent in translating content to and from over 100 languages. Regardless of your industry, project scope or topic, we have the resources you can trust to exceed your expectations. Let’s discuss your translation project today.