Why is Translation Important in Today’s World?

Translation plays an important role and makes the difference when it comes to establishing relations, spreading ideas and delivering information worldwide.

Mónica Cabral • Updated on January 21, 2020
Mónica Cabral • Updated on January 21, 2020
A world drawing representing the importance of translation in connecting the world

Nowadays, we live in a globalized world, where numerous countries and cultures are connected, whether by commercial or political relations, or merely cultural exchanges. However, there are barriers that can often difficult said relations. These barriers are mainly linguistic, since these relations and exchanges are often established between countries and people that don’t speak the same language, thus complicating the communication.

In a world with over 7000 spoken languages, translation is important because it allows people to communicate and understand each other’s ideas and cultures, without having to learn a second language. Furthermore, even if people know more than one language, we tend to understand and express ourselves better with our native language.

However, the importance of translation in today’s world goes way beyond that.

Not Everyone Can Speak English

According to Ethnologue, English is the most spoken language in the world if you count both native and non-native speakers with over 1.1 billion speakers, 379 million of which are native. English is also the language with a more prominent presence in our day to day lives, whether it is on the media, the Internet, among others. Consequently, we sometimes forget that, in reality, not everyone can speak English, or even understand it.

A 2012 study, carried out by the European Commission, concluded that only a quarter of the European population was able to understand a news report in English. Moreover, to fully understand the message in a language, it is not enough that you master it orally and in written form or know its grammatical rules. It is essential to also understand the cultural aspects inherent to that language’s community, like its habits and beliefs. Thereby, the translator’s quest is to adapt all these linguistic and cultural particularities into the target language and culture. Ultimately, the main goal is to ensure that everyone understands the original content, preserving its essence.

Translation Fuels the Global Economy

A world map with some coins around

Due to the increasing globalization and technological advancements, physical distance is becoming a smaller concern when it comes to establishing political, commercial or governmental relations. Today’s world is dominated by the exponential increase of relations between foreign countries, since these bring countless advantages:

  • The decreased cost of products and its manufacturing.
  • The use of professional skills that may not be so developed in our country.
  • The increase in the number of markets to invest in.

Nonetheless, in most cases, there is a linguistic barrier, the countries don’t speak the same language.

Thus, it is crucial that each country ensures excellent translation and interpretation services, performed by competent and qualified professionals, because one tiny mistake could mean the complete failure of extremely important relations. In addition, we are beginning to see the growth of other markets, outside of the English language spectrum, like the Chinese market, for example, which has been growing exponentially over the last few years, which leads to the pursuit of native translators.

Translation in the Dissemination of Culture and Information

A bunch of newspapers in several languages. They represent the importance of translation all around the world.

Nowadays, most of the culture we consume, whether it is literature, cinema, music or television, comes from English speaking countries. Given that most of it isn’t originally in our native language, there must be competent and qualified translators to translate and/or subtitle all our favorite books, movies and TV shows. People often take that for granted, forgetting that, without translation, most would have to limit themselves to their native culture. Now, don’t get me wrong, that is definitely not a bad thing. Every country has incredible cultural assets. However, we would be very limited and wouldn’t be able to get to know other amazing cultures and perceptions.

Moreover, translation is also extremely important when it comes to spreading information. Thanks to translation, we discover news and stories that happen every day across the world, which are presented to us through several means, in our language. Without translation, we would live in a dome, closed on our own little world which, in my opinion, would be a disaster. We would live as ignorant people, with no clue of the good and the bad about the world we live in.

What differentiates mankind from the remnants is our cognitive ability. So, if there isn’t a worldwide flow of information, what do we have left? But that’s not all. Translation isn’t just important for the present days. It is also crucial for us to understand the history and evolution of humanity. Thanks to translation, we can revisit the past, live in the present, and dream about the future. If anyone ever says to you that translation isn’t that important, just tell them that the Bible was translated to more than 600 languages, which is probably one of the reasons that makes it the best-selling book of all time.

The Importance of Translation in Promoting Tourism

Some travel souvenirs on a table

It is well known that a great part of a country’s income comes from tourism. For example, every year, Portugal is the destination of choice for thousands of tourists. And, naturally, out of all these tourists, almost no one can express themselves in Portuguese, or even understand the language. Therefore, translation is essential to the growth and development of this industry, whether it is through tourist guides or articles that encourage people to visit the country, such as brochures, web pages, promotional videos, or others.

Translation is a tremendous and essential asset in the tourism sector, as it makes tourists feel welcome, and it also adds to the popularity and boosting of a country as destination of choice, tourist friendly, which leads to the increase in revenue.

Concluding

We live in a world where it is becoming more and more important to establish international relations, and where we consume information and entertainment from all over the world. We witness the creation of a global village, where everyone shares ideas, habits and cultures. It is practically impossible to escape from this globalization. We must accept that it is here to stay, fortunately. That being said, we must adapt to it and enjoy it as much as we can.

Translation is something indispensable. It breaks down barriers and borders. Thanks to it, we live in an extremely educated society, with access to all kinds of contents. All in all, translation is a necessity that must be acknowledged. There are over 7000 languages in the world. It is true that English is the most predominant language in the world, but you’re deluded if you think the Tower of Babel is falling any time soon.

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Mónica Cabral
Mónica Cabral

English and Spanish to Portuguese translator and co-founder of Alumiar Elísio. Currently attending a master's degree in Specialized Translation.

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