Today (September 30th) marks International Translation Day – celebrated every year on the Feast of St Jerome. The theme of this year’s event is Beyond Linguistic Barriers – A United World.

International Translation Day was set up by the International Federation of Translators (FIT) in 1953 and has been marked every year since. It is celebrated on September 30th each year as this is the Feast of St Jerome – the man who translated the Bible into Latin and therefore made it accessible to many more readers in the west.

FIT notes that languages act as barriers between people, but that international travel and globalization mean that it has never been more important to overcome these barriers. Professional linguists including translators and interpreters play an “essential” part in facilitating “seamless communication across cultures”, FIT explains. Indeed, speaking another language for a profession can see people achieving everything from negotiating the treaties that help avoid wars to creating safety manuals for one piece of machinery that can be read by users all over the world, the organisation explains.

In order to acknowledge the important work translators and interpreters do, the FIT is asking that companies and individuals come up with innovative ways of celebrating it and showing how overcoming the barriers of language can create a more united world. One organisation getting involved is literary group Free Word. Together with the British Library and writers’ association English PEN, the group is hosting a special day of discussion panels and seminars, all under the banner of International Translation Day. Television presenter Rosie Goldsmith opened proceedings with a discussion on the future of translation, before guests were invited to attend their choice of seminar, and in the afternoon Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o sat down for a chat with professor of literary translation Amanda Hopkinson. Some of the most interesting subjects addressed on the day included song translation and this evening there will be a talk on the art of making people laugh in different languages.

New York publisher Melville House also got in on the act, with editor Sal Robinson highlighting some of his favourite translations. One is Amsterdam Stories by Nescio – the pen name of Jan Hendrik Frederik Grönloh, who was arguably one of the most accomplished Dutch authors of the 20th century. The translation by Damion Searls allows his prose to be shared with English readers, and Robinson notes it is the “ultimate book” about being young and idealistic. Another of Robinson’s tips is Roberto Bolano’s By Night In Chile, which has been translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews. Robinson reveals it was the first translation he bought himself at the start of his publishing career, and that it is so powerful it has the ability to “knock you sideways”.

Last Thursday (September 26th) was European Day of Languages – an occasion that was marked far further afield than Europe. Across the continent’s 47 member states and outside of these boundaries too, people were encouraged to find out more about other languages and consider learning one.