Translation Studies is a field of study that deals with the theory, description, and application of translation. Because it examines translation both as an interlingual transfer, and as an intercultural communication, Translation Studies can also be described as an inter-discipline which touches on other diverse fields of knowledge, including comparative literature, cultural studies, gender studies, computer science, history, linguistics, philosophy, rhetoric, and semiotics.
The skills of translation are becoming ever more important and desirable. Today’s multicultural and multilingual society demands effective, efficient, and empathetic communication between languages and cultures. That’s important for various reasons, which we’ll now explore.
Not Everybody Speaks English
English is the most prominent language in the world. As a result, one might question the importance of translation, and ask, why doesn’t everybody just speak English?
The reality, however, is that not everybody can speak English, fewer still are able to speak it well enough to communicate effectively, and perhaps even more importantly: language is much more than the communication of words. It is also an expression of culture, society, and belief. Promoting a universal language, therefore, would likely lead to a loss of the culture and heritage communicated through native languages.
It Enables A Global Economy
As communication and travel advance, geography is becoming less and less of a barrier to doing business. Companies benefit from working overseas. They can take advantage of the lower cost of products and services in some countries, the professional and industrial expertise of others, and additional markets to trade in.
When they trade in countries with a different native language, they need high-quality translation to communicate effectively. When there’s a demand for translation there are opportunities for translators. When there’s a demand for translators, there’s a demand for Translation Studies. They need to learn the skills to practice at a high level, and perhaps even contribute to advancing the field even further.
Looking ahead, whilst English is the world’s most prominent language at the moment, it may not always be. When a market emerges and grows rapidly, like the Chinese market has in recent years, the demand for translation to and from its native language is also likely to increase.
The Spread of Information and Ideas
Translation is necessary for the spread of information, knowledge, and ideas. It is absolutely necessary for effective and empathetic communication between different cultures. Translation, therefore, is critical for social harmony and peace.
Translation is also the only medium through which people come to know different works that expand their knowledge. For example:
- Arabic translators were able to keep the ideas of ancient Greek philosophers alive throughout the Middle Ages
- The Bible has been translated into at least 531 languages
- Translation is helping sports teams and organisations overcome language barriers and transcend international boundaries
- TED Talks run open translation projects that allow people around the world to understand their talks, offering non-English speakers to learn from some of the best educators in the world.
The Role of Translation Studies
Effective, efficient, and empathetic translation requires highly skilled practitioners. Courses in Translation Studies are a great way for linguists, language graduates, and translators to develop a deep understanding of the academic field, and the skills to practice as a translation professional.
Translation enables effective communication between people around the world. It is a courier for the transmission of knowledge, a protector of cultural heritage, and essential to the development of a global economy. Highly skilled translators are key. Translation Studies helps practitioners develop those skills.
- MA Translation Studies at the University of Exeter. A programme that provides a rigorous foundation in the academic field of Translation Studies, and an excellent professional training for careers in the language services industry.
- Bernack A (2012) The Importance of Translation Studies for Development Education. Policy and Practice: A Development Education Review, Issue 14. An interesting analysis of the role of the translator as a mediator between cultures.
- Lost in Translation? There’s a Whole Industry to Help. An Inc magazine article about the growth of the translation industry and its importance to the world economy.
- Why Translation is Important In A World Where English is Everywhere A great discussion about the relevance of translation when many around the world can speak English.