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Translation Day: why is translation so difficult?

The lives of every creature on the earth may one day depend on the
instant and accurate translation of one word.”
Paul Engle

On this International Translation Day, let us reflect:
why is translating so difficult?
Why just knowing a couple of languages is not enough?

If the only requirement for a good translation were the conversion of phrases from one language to another certainly the machine translators would be quite enough. Grammatical rules, vocabulary, and speed count, but people have characteristics that are mandatory to any translator who wants to ensure quality and accuracy in a translation. It doesn’t matter the level of experience, the number of years worked, or how many words he has already converted; when translating, sensibility, mistrust about the real meaning of a word, and curiosity are needed and must join the knowledge. The machine loses in those qualities.

It is for these reasons that we still have a place in the job market, and it is also for these reasons that we are celebrating International Translation Day, this September 30th, a day entirely dedicated to us, translators. Since curiosity is an inherent part of our being, I will explain right away that on this day, in 419 or 420, died Saint Jerome, the translator of the Bible from the Old Greek and Hebrew to Latin, and author of important articles about the art of translating. Saint Jerome is considered the translator’s patron saint.


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