International Translation Day

Today is International Translation Day. Tweets are popping up on my feed with people asking what books I believe (not me in particular but I’m making this personal) are the best translated books. It’s one of those questions that break my head thinking about.

If I want to answer that question, I have to figure out whether the books I’ve been reading were translated or not. I have to admit that’s not something I usually think about while choosing a book to read. I prioritise in buying English books so I don’t stand still about this beneficial fact and usually assume the book was originally published in the language I’ve bought it. Perhaps a bit naïve of me and something I’ll probably will look closer at in the future, but standing still about this makes me realise that one of the best translations, in my life, has been the Harry Potter books.

I know, I know, Harry Potter again. How unoriginal, right? But it’s true. Without the Dutch version of Harry Potter, I wouldn’t have been introduced to this young wizard and without this young wizard, I wouldn’t have discovered fan fiction and without fan fiction, I wouldn’t have met the people that are now one of my closest friends.

If I rewind all of this, without Harry Potter being translated, I wouldn’t have found the urge to obsess about England and I wouldn’t have gone to a summer camp in Brighton when I was fourteen. If I hadn’t gone to Brighton, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the language and the accent and if I hadn’t fallen in love with the language, I wouldn’t have pushed myself into buying the English copy of Harry Potter.

Because of my obsession with the Dutch Harry Potter books, I discovered a whole new world in English. Without this, I wouldn’t be writing this post nor be having this blog (or it would have been in Dutch, perhaps). And this makes the circle round. So as minor as a translation might seem to me (or you) at a particular time in your life, it could be the start of a change in the long run and shape you into the person that you are now (or slowly becoming).

Of course I have been surrounded by thousands of translations during my life so far. Whenever I turn on the telly or go to the cinema, I am watching shows and films that are subtitled to help me understand what it’s about. Even the commercials are subbed, something I found out while watching the same commercial on youtube in a different language!

If you really put your mind to it, translation is probably one of the most important aspects in life. Without translation, I wouldn’t understand what is going on in the world. I wouldn’t be able to learn and understand another culture because I would be narrowed down into my wall of my own language and my own culture. Because of translation, I can understand my friends because I speak Dutch and she speaks Swedish. If we didn’t have the benefits of translation, we wouldn’t be able to communicate.

So for this matter, I must thank everyone whose job it is to translate. Without you, my life would have been different and narrow-minded.

But most of all, thank you to whomever thought: “hey, how awesome would it be if I could understand those people from overseas? Let’s learn what “book” means in English so I can communicate with them.” and made that very first translation dictionary.

Thank you.


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