Translator’s Holiday

by Translation Guy on September 28, 2010

Like all the other good little translation boys and girls, I’m not going to be able to sleep the night of the 29th. It’s like this every night before International Translation Day―as I lay in bed, I wonder what St. Jerome, the patron saint of all translators, will put in my stocking. A shiny red thesaurus? A little USB drive full of orthopedic device terminology?

Well, let’s see.  Last year I got nothing. Same as the year before. What does it mean? A case of holiday confusion? Maybe International Translation Day is when the translation bunny comes and localizes eggs? To get the skinny on this, I spent a good 10 minutes doing in-depth research on Google.

International Translation Day is celebrated on the feast of St. Jerome, who became the patron saint of translators after he translated the bible into Latin. He was a great scholar and his struggles in bringing the Word from Hebrew and Greek to Latin still inform the debate on the translator’s struggle for accuracy and meaning.

Unfortunately, I fear that much of the moral rectitude St. Jerome brought to our profession has lapsed. Back when our saint was still a hard-partying student in Rome, he used to spend his mornings after in the sepulchres of the martyrs and Apostles beneath the Eternal City, penitently reflecting on the nature of sin and the sins of nature. This kind of catacomb-crawling buzz-kill is out of vogue among modern translators, much to the moral decline of our profession. In my own case, due to the catacomb shortage in Manhattan, I must settle for a stroll along the East River to reflect on the cement overshoes lining its murky bottom. Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas!

FIT, the Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs, who named the day back in 1991, has proclaimed 2010 to be the year of “translation quality for a variety of voices,” in light of the fact that 96% of the languages of the world, which are spoken by just 4% of the people, are rapidly disappearing, and we should do something about it.

I’ve got to promote linguistic diversity on my holiday, which is on a Saturday no less?? Now I support linguistic diversity as much as the next guy (maybe even more since it’s good for business), but shouldn’t there be a party?

Language savant Jeff Allen tipped me off on a big virtual translation conference over at ProZ, which I’ve always thought of as a big koi pond for carping translators to fight over rice crackers tossed their way by ignorant clients. (Let’s see if the ProZ crowd rises to that bait.) But last year, they had around 7000 attendees, and they expect even more this year, so it might be interesting. Details here. I actually don’t have any problem with ProZ, but I do have a problem with virtual conferences. There’s no drinking. Unless you do like I do and park a magnum of cheap white wine and a bucket of ice next to the screen. But hell, that’s no holiday. Just another day at the office.

So it sounds like my translation stocking might be empty again this year. But I’ve got to believe that there’s a pony in there somewhere.

So best wishes for the translation season, and may all your International Translation days be cash-flow positive.

Translation Guy


  1. Wilber says:

    Brilliant, compadre. Your ITD Eve spoof is one I’d have loved to do myself if I had the wit. On a slightly different note one might even fantasize a downtown parade, a brass band, a speech by the mayor, floats, a Miss Translation pageant (oops). And, maybe launch a line of commercial products – translator action figures for a start. How about an edgy video, working title “Translators and Cheerleaders?”

    Ah well. Hey, keep ’em flying.

    One question: I’m dimly aware, of course, that there’s a three timezone difference between San Diego, where I live, and New York. But does September 30 2010 actually fall on Saturday in Manhattan?

    • Ken says:

      My September 30 did, Wilber. I definately counted it off with my fingers, before I wrote it up

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