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September 30th was International Translation Day. It’s great to have an annual celebration of the importance of translation, and of the people who help communication globally with their translation skills.

International Translation Day has been with us since 1953, when it was started by the International Federation of Translators. At that time the value of world exports was a fraction of what it is today. Take a look around at anything you possess; it’s probably imported. The UK also still exports large amounts of goods and services. None of this would be possible without translators.

OurWorldInData.org has some nice stats on the value of world exports since 1800. Giving 1913 a value of 100, trade levels in 1953 were at 186.2 and in 2014 they were at 4,427.6, a value nearly 24 times higher. In real terms the 2014 figure was 2014 18,301bn USD, which is mind-boggling.

International Translation Day coincides with the feast day of St Jerome, the patron saint of translators and libraries. He is well-known for translating the Bible from Hebrew into Latin, making it much more accessible at the time. Consider the impact this translator had, in spreading the Christian message throughout the Roman Empire. Undertaking commercial translation is not such a history-making job, but it’s important for businesses to get their translation right, too, if they want to spread their messages.

There are many stories of translations that have gone wrong – often these days this is down to running a piece of text through a machine translator, crossing one’s fingers and publishing. The only reason to rely on machine translation is where there is no human alternative or where you are prepared to pay nothing for your translation. Since you get what you pay for, “free” machine translation delivers a result that has the same value as your investment – nothing (or worse, the derision or incomprehension of your target market).

So spare a thought for human translators on International Translation Day – working hard, wrestling to develop translations that delight your audience, For Saint Jerome’s sake, don’t just throw away thousands of years of human skill and endeavour in the false economy of a machine translation.

Talk to Accutranslate – we can help you get better translations!