Recognition of an Interpreter’s Invisible Work

Many Chinese interpreters have been in the situation where in one of those emotional closing moments of a conference in which the organiser gives thanks to all those who have made it possible – the speakers, the public, the collaborating institutions, the moderators, even their families, but he forgets to mention those people at the back of the room (or perhaps in another room, looking at him through a small screen), squeezing their neurons to try to convey to the audience the meaning and emotion of their words.

invisible work of Chinese translators

On 24 May 2017, the United Nations General Assembly for the first time in a long time placed the focus on us, officially recognizing the work of professional Chinese translators and, in particular, their role in upholding the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. With the adoption of the interim resolution entitled “The role of professional translation in building bridges among nations and promoting peace, understanding and development”, he stressed the importance of professional translation in bringing nations closer together, facilitating dialogue, understanding and cooperation, contributing to development and strengthening global peace and security.

According to the beautiful words of Andrei Dapkiunas, the permanent representative of Belarus to the United Nations, the resolution is not dedicated to institutions or systems, but to individuals, to “invisible workers and as yet unrecognized heroes of the language profession […]. It is a resolution on the unappreciated role of language in the life of human society.

The General Assembly also officially recognizes 30 September, St. Jerome’s Day, as the International Day of Translation and invites Member States to celebrate it in an appropriate manner in order to raise awareness of the importance of professional translation.

invisible work of Chinese translators

For me, one of the most salient aspects of the resolution is its emphasis on the professional nature of the translator’s work, as it defends translation as a profession that requires demanding university training and a continuous quest for quality and excellence.

We hope that this recognition by the United Nations will also permeate our society and serve to make visible and recognize the work of translators, a work that is essential to the functioning of any human activity that, since its inception, has helped to build bridges between cultures, promote integration and understanding and fight for peace and equal rights among people.