UNESCO chose to focus on the theme of translation during their World Book Day on Monday April 23rd.
World Book Day seeks to promote reading and publishing. It was used this year to draw attention to the importance of translation and how it presents the opportunity to access a broader collection of books, allowing for greater variety and diversity for readers.
UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, has stated how books provide a valuable tool for knowledge-sharing and helps strengthen mutual understanding and openness between people:
“Translation is the first step towards the rapprochement of peoples, and is also a decentralizing experience, teaching diversity and dialogue.”
UNESCO is also celebrating the 80th birthday of the Index Translationum which is a bibliography of translation.
The index lists all of the translated books in the world
The Translationum boasts a collection of over 2,000,000 entries since it was created in 1932 and it is consistently updated.
The electronic database shows that the bibliography has over 500,000 authors and 78,000 publishers in 148 countries.
“Translation is one of the driving principles of our creative diversity, which enriches each language through contact with all the others” – Irina Bokova
French, German and Spanish – most popular languages to be translated into
It is interesting to learn that the languages in which most books are translated into are French, German and Spanish and the most translated author happens to be Agatha Christie!
Christie is closely followed in second by Jules Verne who wrote Around the World in Eighty Days and Shakespeare comes in third.
The index also allows us to measure the growth of Chinese publishing in recent years as well as other languages.
Ten years ago Chinese ranked 30th of languages translated into, and by 2008 it came in at 6th position. This is not too far behind English which is 4th but some way ahead of translation into Russian which is 29th.
The original languages most translated are English, French, German and Russian! But Yiddish isn’t fairing so well back in 41st place.
Reading and blogging about one book from every nation
To celebrate the significance and value of translation, the writer Ann Morgan has set herself an undertaking of reading one translated book from every country in the world after realising how anglocentric her literacy habits were.
As only 3% of books published in the UK are translations it’s not going to be an easy feat to source a translated book from every corner of the globe.
Morgan has told how there are still many hurdles to overcome including sourcing a book from the island nation of Tuvalu, which has no tradition of publishing and having to have out of print novels couriered in from Africa.
Why not explore the Index Translationum for yourself and see if anything catches your eye for a good read, from another country!