Translators and translator specialists have to have their wits about them. Language is a slippery, writhing mercurial beast: leave it unattended for a moment and it will be gone before you know it, changed and unrecognisable. Language has the phenomenal habit of always changing, always being in flux and because of this, translators should be in tune with current linguistic trends and language fashions.
For those of us who have worked with historical texts, it is clear what is meant here. By extension, working with texts of differing genres also requires the same kind of mental dexterity and linguistic plasticity. Although translators should be aware of language change and the need to be ‘in touch with language’, it is difficult, perhaps impossible even, to plot the course or direction of change.
One person who has made an attempt to plot the direction of change in, for example, English is Justin Rye who offers an account of the state of the English language a thousand years from now in a fascinating online article. He attempts to forecast the way English will change by briefly looking at the state of English in the year AD 1000, the year AD 2000 and then AD 3000, calling this new linguistic offshoot Late American.
American English does dominate but an important question for translators and linguists is: will the growth of English continue? Will English continue to be the only ‘global language’? Both these questions will have an enormous impact on the future of translation. If English continues to dominate then the significance of translating into and out of English will also predominate. David Crystal puts forward some interesting points regarding the future of English in his book English as a Global Language.
Regardless of which language becomes the global superpower, this will have an immense knock-on effect for translators therefore we must be atune to the growing needs of a growing global market. Languages like English, Spanish, Chinese, Urdu and Arabic may become ‘basic languages’ where knowledge of two or more are required by all linguistic professionals. In the future, translators who are able to work in at least two of these ‘super languages’ will be more ‘attractive’ professionals than those who cannot.