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BigLogo.gif UN Member States on the Record
UNOG Conference Management celebrates World Translation Day
15 October 2008 / 04:52

[Geneva | Author: DGACM Geneva]

International Year of Languages World Translation Day was celebrated for the first time at the Palais des Nations, on 1 October 2008, on the occasion of the International Year of Languages.

Linguist, Claude Hagège, from the Collège de France, was invited to give a lecture on the following theme: "The meeting of cultures and its impact on translation". He delivered his message in the six official languages of the United Nations in front of more than a hundred translators, interpreters and representatives of permanent missions.

Professor Claude Hagège first analyzed the various activities that underlie the act of translating by mentioning the different terms Romanian used at various points in its history to refer to translation: pull out a content, restore a content, extract a content, interpret, redo and transform, Romanize.

Translation is the world's oldest profession since it was present as soon as two foreign communities met together. Translation helps understand the mystery of languages as it reflects ancient cultures and helps researchers identify semantic universals, that is, common semantic contents that cultures convey through languages. 

The hard core of languages, i.e., the non-translatable parts, such as their phonological and morphological systems, help isolate universals. Claude Hagège showed in a number of instances how languages convey meaning and how translators render it in other languages, though each language has its own tools that may not be transferable from one language to the other.

He recalled Security Council resolution 242 (S/RES/242) and the morpho-syntactic differences between the English and the French versions.

He also mentioned the richness of verbal morphology in Bulgarian where there is a special conjugation form for she came when the narrator is not an eyewitness, and which is rendered in English by an adverb: allegedly she came and in French by the conditional tense elle serait venue or a locution: d'après ce que je crois savoir, elle est venue.

Neology was also touched upon by Hagège, who pointed out  that it was preferable to coin words that could be understood by native speakers of a given language  than to use world coinages that may be understood by the international community but not by native speakers.

For Hagège, languages do not differ in terms of their lexical wealth since what a language does not have in its lexicon can be expressed by descriptive means. Languages do differ in terms of structural markers that are necessary in some languages and are not present in others (classification in Chinese, for instance). Translation is possible because it deals with semantic content, that is, universal invariants.