International Translation Day

Just couple of days ago, I learnt about observance of International Translation Day on Sep 30. And this is being observed for more than 50 years. I just thought, I write about it on the eve of this day. I, being active translator with one book under my belt, I feel I am qualified to write about it to some extent!

In India, we live in a multi-lingual society. Most of us know at least 3 languages-Hindi, English and local language. Ability to deal with multiple languages is termed as polyglot. I am also multi-lingual, with Kannada as my mother tongue, but having studied Marathi, English and Hindi during school days. I love languages. I made attempts to learn Urdu, Sanskrit, and long time back, German, too. I have not finished learning them yet. Also, being software professional, I had to deal with programming languages too! We learnt intricacies of translating or even interpreting, code written high-level programming languages to machine readable language. I still remember one our teachers in graduation period, stated that each one of the students will invent his/her own programming language. Unfortunately, his statement did not turn true, so far, at least! Every year or two, I come across some new programming, I have stopped learning them.

Because of multi-lingual society in India, translation is in our DNA. This is true in Europe too. Most of European literature came to be known to rest of the world through their translations in English. During pre-Independence era in India, leaders such as Sane Guruji recognized the need of translation and formed an organization called Antar Bharati(आंतर भारती). Many Indologist translated Sanskrit texts which are part of Indian heritage to English and other European languages, due to which world became aware of India’s rich culture. Magazines such as Kelyane Bhashantar(केल्याने भाषांतर) have been working since last few years to bring foreign language literature to Marathi.

We also see that many experts, writers have commented on what is translation, what it is not, and process of translation itself. This forms body of knowledge related to translation activity, and even can be termed as philosophy of translation. Some experts like Dr Mangesh Nadkarni say,’ Translation is difficult art, and I don’t think there is one universally accepted measure by which all translations can be judged. Some are valued greatly because they are creations themselves-transcreations as they are called. I don’t mind what are called “literal” translations, closer to nuances of the original language than to those of the language in which the work is translated. The former sometimes sounds arty’. And some have termed translators as noble coolies. I also had come across essay of Jewish thinker Walter Benjamin titled ‘The task of translator’. This is worth reading. I also found this blog discussing the essay.

Couple of years back, Pune University started post-graduate course MA in translation. There have been already many institutes focused on translation, specifically professional and technical translation. We also have seen advancements in machine translation by Google which are employing computer assisted translation techniques. Some universities, such as University of Hyderabad, are also working on developing machine translation models for Indian languages based on Sanskrit grammar.

Translation of software is another beast altogether where concepts such as localization(L10N) and globalization(G18N) are employed. I have managed such projects in the past, and have interacted with translators all over the world, and also have used translator specific tools also. But this is topic of another blog.

Translation(or even interpretation), whether of books, or software, is now a big industry. And it is needing professionally qualified and competent translators. I am still learning the tricks of trade. Looking forward to your comments on this day dedicated to translation and translator’s community. Let me end this blog with a funny comment on translation, I don’t remember who made that. Translation is like a woman-if it is beautiful, it is not faithful, if it is faithful it is not beautiful.


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