Four Ways Translators Can Help Fight Inequality


Today is blog action day. It’s a day when millions of bloggers worldwide come together to discuss a particular topic and try to contribute to social change. This year’s topic is inequality and being as this is a blog about translation, I’ve decided to list how translators can contribute to fighting inequality worldwide.

1) Inequality in access to information

When used properly, information is empowering. In fact, under international law, freedom of information is a human right. According to IWS, more than half of the information available online (55.7% to be exact) is in English, while English speakers only represent 27% of internet readers. This informational gap directly relates to income, education, and among other things, inequality in access to necessary resources and information. One of the many ways that translators can contribute to eradicating inequality in access to information is by volunteering to make important information available in other languages.

2) Inequality in education

It has long been said that education is key to combating inequality. Yet, while the majority of the world population is not made up of English speakers (according to Ethnologue), approximately 80% of all educational resources are still developed in English (according to the NEA). This is another gap translators can help to bridge.

3) Gender and racial inequality

Gender roles and racial stereotypes can be discursively constructed through language and, thus, also through translation. Gender and race definitions interact constantly alongside other similarly constructed parameters like sexuality or ideology. Translation can not only be viewed as the mechanical linguistic shift from one language to another, but as a source of mediation between languages, cultures and values, contributing to healthier linguistic constructions of common discourse in society aimed ultimately at gender and racial awareness.

4) Income inequality

There is income and wage inequality in translation. When outsourcing to developing countries, many companies have “first world” demands, but are only willing to pay “third world” rates. Such practices are abusive and are not an inherent or necessary part of outsourcing. It is possible to profit from outsourcing while still paying reasonable rates, and doing so helps fight income inequality for translators in struggling economies.

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