Dubai Celebrating International Translation Day 2018

In May 2017, the United Nations General Assembly designated September 30th as International Translation Day to be celebrated each year across the United Nations network. So, this is only the second-ever International Translation Day (ITD). The theme for 2018 is Translation: promoting cultural heritage in changing times. We’re going to think about the concept of “cultural heritage”.

The notion of “cultural heritage” is intended to have a much more broadly than “monuments” and “collections of objects” as part of ITD. We are moving into the territory of what could be considered more “intangible cultural heritage”. So what is this “intangible cultural heritage” and how can we understand the term?


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Intangible cultural heritage can include traditions that have been passed on to us from previous generations and continue to this very day. Of course, traditions that endure over time can change in some of the ways in which they are manifest. We’ll return to this shortly. Also considered part of intangible culture are oral traditions (storytelling), social practices, knowledge, and practices concerning nature, our world and beyond or the knowledge and skills needed to create traditional arts and crafts.
Taking our broad definition of intangible cultural heritage above, it is important in developing mutual respect between different ways of life and enables greater intercultural dialogue. For a translator seeking to maintain the cultural heritage in a work they are translating, to ensure it is conveyed accurately and respectfully, he or she must have a sound knowledge and understanding of the intangible.

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A key point about intangible cultural heritage is that the traditional and contemporary are living at the same time. Inherited traditions from the past may be evident in a community, preserved and reproduced as faithfully as possible. But contemporary – or modern – practices are equally part of intangible cultural heritage. We look not only to the past but also to the present.

International Translation Day will highlight the role of translation in promoting such understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of others in terms of encouraging mutual respect in a world that is changing at a rapid pace.



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