Celebrating 20 Years of Democracy on International Translation Day

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International Translation Day (ITD) is celebrated worldwide every year on 30 September, the feast day of St Jerome, who is the patron saint of translators. The day is recognised by UNESCO and is an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of translators, terminologists and interpreters to communication and interaction in every sphere, particularly in today's globalised world.

The International Federation of Translators, of which South Africa is a member, announces a theme for every year's celebrations, and this year's theme is 'Language Rights: Essential to All Human Rights'. This theme fits in very well with our country's celebration of 20 years of democracy, and the Heritage Month theme, 'Tell your story that moves South Africa forward'.

As DAC celebrates 20 Years of Democracy as part of Heritage Month, it will be telling the story of how it has moved South Africa forward through legislation and policy that will give effect to the constitutional requirements on language. Our Constitution is the cornerstone of our democracy, and it is significant that one of its founding provisions, section 6, determines the fundamental language rights of all South Africans. It provides for the 11 official languages of our country, and sets out the obligations of all levels of government in terms of the promotion and equal treatment of all these languages.

The Department's major achievement in the field of language has been the adoption by Parliament of the Use of Official Act, 2012. This Act requires all national departments, public enterprises and public entities to adopt language policies and establish language units to ensure that members of the public can access government information in the official language of their choice. The adoption of such an Act at national level will give further impetus to the adoption of language legislation by all provinces and municipalities.

Another notable achievement for the Department in language matters is the adoption of the South African Language Practitioners' Council Act, 2014. This Act will regulate the language profession in areas such as the accreditation, training and employment of language practitioners. On the one hand, this will ensure that government, the private sector and members of the public who make use of language practitioners will receive professional service. For language professionals, it will mean that they will receive proper training, their profession will be protected, and they will receive recognition for their skills when they are employed.

Against this background, South African translators will therefore celebrate International Translation Day to acknowledge translation as a vehicle for social nation building and cohesion, and to create awareness among citizens of language rights as part of their broader democratic rights.

The DAC will host an event on 26 September at which translators, terminologists and other language practitioners in the Public Service will celebrate the adoption of legislation that will create many new jobs, and the role played by their profession in providing access to information that assists in ensuring the health, dignity and freedom of all citizens.