International Translation Day 2020: Finding the Words for a World in Crisis

International Translation Day 2020: Finding the Words for a World in Crisis

Today, the 30th of September, we celebrate International Translation Day, traditionally “the feast of St. Jerome”, a saint best known for one of the earliest translations of most of the Bible into Latin.

In 2020 we want to recognise more than ever the excellent work of translators and interpreters around the world and the importance of bringing information from one language to another in a world in crisis.

The International Federation of Translators (FIT) holds an annual poster competition commemorating International Translation Day, and this year’s theme – Finding the Words for a World in Crisis – highlights the importance of translators’ and interpreters’ work. They use their linguistic skills to ensure that clear, accurate and truthful information reaches everyone, building bridges between countries and cultures, and contributing to global unity.

Translation saves lives

From a global perspective, since the pandemic started every healthcare worker has been working hard to save patients’ lives, by trying to find a treatment for this virus.

Research is still being carried out for a vaccine against COVID-19 and the information exchange between countries, researchers and healthcare companies, for which translation is crucial, is of paramount importance. Translation helps to share any discoveries, progress and errors to avoid.

From a daily life perspective, people need to understand the protocols and new important guidelines that the healthcare and government authorities have given. The role of translators and interpreters is essential. Imagine a non-English speaker in London not understanding the social distancing protocols or falling ill and not knowing what they need to do.

Or imagine a non-Spanish speaker in Seville trying to explain their symptoms to a doctor. People need access to this indispensable information and a way to communicate with others who don’t speak their language. Knowledge saves lives and translators and interpreters share this knowledge by breaking down language barriers. In this way, translation saves lives.

COVID-19 Glossary: Finding the Words for a World in Crisis

Organisations have been facing the challenge of communicating many COVID-19 concepts, as some of them are not easily translatable. A few months ago, Olivier Uwishema, a medical student from Turkey, didn’t want to just be a spectator in the crisis and decided to create a non-profit organisation using money he saved from his scholarship. His organisation is now helping to translate and share vital COVID-19 information in 26 languages.

Since the pandemic reached our countries, there are quite a few words or phrases that we have all become very familiar with and which require translation for others. We have collected a few below, paired with their Cambridge or Collins Dictionary definitions:

  • COVID-19: an infectious disease caused by a coronavirus (= a type of virus), that usually causes fever, tiredness, and a cough, and can also cause breathing problems. Most often the disease is not serious but it can lead to severe illness in some people
  • Coronavirus: a type of virus that causes diseases in humans and animals. In humans, it usually causes respiratory infections (= in the nose, throat, or chest) that are not serious, but that can sometimes cause more serious infections that can kill people
  • Epidemic: the appearance of a particular disease in a large number of people at the same time
  • Pandemic: (of a disease) existing in almost all of an area or in almost all of a group of people, animals, or plants
  • SARS: abbreviation for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome: a serious infectious illness that causes difficulty in breathing and sometimes death
  • MERS: abbreviation for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome: a serious infectious illness that causes difficulty in breathing and sometimes death
  • Social distancing: the practice of keeping away from other people as much as possible, or of keeping a certain distance from other people, in order to stop a disease from spreading to a lot of people
  • Quarantine: a period of time during which an animal or person that might have a disease is kept away from other people or animals so that the disease cannot spread
  • Lockdown: a situation in which people are not allowed to enter or leave a building or area freely because of an emergency
  • Flatten the curve: to take measures to reduce the peaks in something, such as the outbreak of an illness

At Toppan Digital Language we want to express our gratitude to all the translators and interpreters that have been working behind the scenes and on the front line since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Happy International Translation Day 2020!

FIT’s International Translation Day 2020 winning Poster, by Liza Gunenko

Written by Demetrius Williams
Demetrius Williams
Demetrius Williams is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Toppan Digital Language and has previous eCommerce experience working with a number of luxury brands in the fashion and beauty industry. He enjoys photography, freelance writing, producing podcasts and binge-watching Netflix.

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