The world is full of languages. Estimates vary but we can say that there are approximately 6,800 known human languages with probably a great deal more, not to mention the hundreds of different dialects in the world whose statuses hover between that of dialect and fully-fledged language (the ditinction is often very blurred). This is the status quo. We all live together on this planet. The elements that we all have in common greatly outweigh those elements that differentiate us.
When we discuss languages one of the first things that linguists do is to categorise language – place it into tidy, describable boxes. We talk about grammar, phonology, lexis etc. Furthermore, we try to find similarities (not distinctions) between particular languages. We have formulated theories regarding the genealogy and creation of languages. We draw language families in which similarities and blood ties are highlighted. The idea is that we look for what we share rather than what distinguishes us.
Where do translators fit in? In a world full of different languages, the role of the translator is to be the communicative linchpin, the go-between. Our mission is to bring understanding to a world full of misunderstanding. Our task is to bring order to the confusion. This might sound high and mighty but the role of the translator is of vital importance. Without translators the world would come to a standstill. In a very real sense, our mission is to bring peace to the world by helping people communicate with one another and understand each others ideas, dream, emotions and desires.
A very honourable mission indeed.