International Translation Day (ITD) 2020

international translation day

A day in the life of St Jerome

To mark International Translation Day (ITD) 2020, we give you exclusive access to an extract from recently discovered memoirs. Read on for a behind-the-scenes account of how this unassuming priest became the patron saint of translators.

International Translation Day

29 September, 420 AD

Sunrise

I wake up early so that I can break the back of this Scripture commentary before lunchtime. After that, I can focus on fine-tuning the Book of Ezekiel before my deadline at sundown. The timescale is tight. I really don’t know why He needs these by sundown – I’m sure He won’t even look at them until at least sunrise tomorrow. Still, the customer is King of Heaven, and I thrive under pressure.

After morning prayers

I turn my back for just a moment and Tartarus the cat has spilled my pot of ink all over my finest quills! Not on the scrolls, thank goodness, but it’s a disturbance that I could have done without. I mop up the spillage with some scrap parchment while Tartarus skulks off, presumably to wreak yet more havoc around the monastery. I make good progress with the Scripture commentary. I hope I’ve pitched it right and that it meets the approval of the Higher Powers.

Noon

As my thoughts turn to sustenance, I am interrupted by one of the other priests. One of his parishioners urgently needs a translation of a birth certificate for his latest offspring. I sigh inwardly. These little certificates can be really time-consuming. Ugh. The priest promises to take care of all the associated paperwork, much to my relief. I can fit it in if I skip lunch. I hope the parishioner has chosen a good, solid name for the baby. The last birth certificate I translated was for some poor soul called Judas Iscariot Kerioth. What a cross to bear!

After afternoon prayers

Once the birth certificate translation is dispatched, I turn my attention to some of the trickier passages in the Book of Ezekiel. I find the subject matter a bit heavy-going. It gets a bit apocalyptic in some places. I’ll be glad to draw a line under this project. It’s got scope creep written all over it. When will it ever end? Mustn’t grumble, I suppose. It’s been a tremendously satisfying job for a long-standing client and for a particularly high-profile publication. Note to self: remember to ask the client if He might consider including my name in the credits. As long as He doesn’t butcher my work with His comma splices and dangling modifiers! Perhaps I’ll ask Him to write a testimonial instead.

Late afternoon

I’ve become a bit distracted by thoughts of marketing strategies. I have to focus on getting this finished before the sun starts to set! I read through what I’ve written one last time, sort out a few lazy repetitions and do a spell check. Done! Within deadline. I always try to under-promise and over-deliver, but it’s been a challenging day. I’m looking forward to some rest this evening.

Sunset

Just as I’m packing up for the day, the same priest pokes his head through the door. He looks flustered. Can I help with an urgent rewrite of a commentary on the Book of Jeremiah by sundown tomorrow? That’s surely an all-nighter. I’m not as young as I used to be. “Is there any flexibility with the deadline?” I ask. “No, there isn’t. Would you be able to help, just this once?” comes the reply. There is a hint of desperation in his voice. I breathe deeply, tell him I can help, just this once, and get to work.

At the time of writing, there is no patron saint of project managers – the competition is simply too fierce.

Serious business
  • According to the United Nations, International Translation Day pays tribute to the work of language professionals and their role in bringing nations together, facilitating dialogue, understanding and cooperation, contributing to development and strengthening world peace and security.
  • The chosen date (September 30) celebrates the feast of St. Jerome, the Bible translator, who is considered the patron saint of translators.

In awe of St Jerome’s dedication to his profession? At Planet Languages, we work with a dedicated team of Jerome’s colleagues – many of whom could be shortlisted for sainthood.

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