We all want a better world. I’d say this is about the most universal philosophical truth about the human race you can come up with — we all want a better world (or maybe only 99% of us do) though we seem to have wildly differing ideas on what that means and the best way to get there.
Most of us agree that it has something to do with improving lives in some way. Improving a person’s ability to survive and have decent quality of life makes for a better world. Improving a person’s ability to connect with the world at large, to find deeper meaning in his or her place within it, makes for a better world. Language can be part of both of these things, helping with basic survival and also showcasing identity, family, community. The efforts of nonprofit translation companies such as the Rosetta Foundation and Translators without Borders (TWB) can help even with basic survival, as is laid out in our News Front section detailing some of the work TWB has done in the past year. It’s been fun to see various people get on board with the idea that language can save lives, including people outside the translation industry. Comedian and actor Eddie Izzard, for example, recently tweeted (and Facebooked) about TWB’s work, with a link to TWB’s donation page. No doubt this made him feel as if he was contributing to a better world; I know I felt that way just by liking his comment.
And of course this is the irony: sometimes people think they’re making the world a better place just by “raising awareness” or by jumping on a bandwagon, liking a page or commenting on something they approve of. Worst of all, getting into a long, drawn-out comment war with someone who obviously wants the world to go up in fiery, racist flames, and if you comment forcefully enough, you think, you will improve the lot of humanity.
Certainly it’s true that social media can help raise money and volunteers, and certainly it’s true that civil debate has changed minds and lives. But nonetheless, we may rely too much on our computer screens to “fix” everything; we still need real people doing real work, even where technology helps support them. We need people teaching in person, such as Becky Campbell, who is featured in this issue’s focus instructing Squamish. We also need the technology itself to take on the challenges presented by new languages, as Alicia Assini details in her article, or by new sections of the population, as Silvia Rodríguez Vázquez and Jesús Torres del Rey explain in their piece about making the web accessible for people with disabilities.
In theory, even the for-profit section of our industry can help better people’s lives (or at least their shopping experiences), and thus our Core Focus covers localization. We have practical localization tips dealing with search engine optimization, transcreation and rich media.
So, whether you believe the world is improved by commerce, by philanthropy or by increasing opportunities for those who are often marginalized, we have something for you. Happy reading!