Global Sustainable Development and the Wellbeing of Language Professionals

Hubscher-Davidson, Séverine and Panichelli-Batalla, Stephanie (2024). Global Sustainable Development and the Wellbeing of Language Professionals. In: Walker, Callum and Lambert, Joseph eds. The Routledge Handbook of the Translation Industry. Taylor & Francis (In Press).


Our world is facing unprecedented challenges that threaten the health and wellbeing of humanity (WHO, 2023a). As pressure and strain on the planet’s resources intensify, there are increasingly urgent calls to pursue sustainability and sustainable development (SD) in all its forms across the world. Amongst other benefits, SD can positively impact a wide cross section of human health and wellbeing, including improved health outcomes and decreased stress. The urgency of this is highlighted by the fact that health and wellbeing have their own Sustainable Development Goal (SDG3) with target 3.4 mentioning specifically the promotion of mental health and wellbeing. Like other human and social science subjects, Translation Studies (TS) has recently started to respond to the urgency of SD, with scholars such as Cronin (2017) arguing that translators cannot remain immune to the ecological shifts taking place and the negative impact on meaningful and satisfying employment that digital translation practices have created.

Although mental health, professional fulfilment, and wellbeing are not often linked to sustainability issues in popular discourse, SD can be viewed not only in terms of the ecological and socioeconomic environment, but also from the perspective of psychology which is concerned with promoting growth, building relationships, and developing healthy work environments (Chiesa et al., 2018; Di Fabio and Rosen, 2018; Tetrick and Peiró, 2012). This links directly with another SD Goal (SDG8), which focuses on economic growth as well as “decent work for all”. Wellbeing is now considered an essential part of a sustainable life and career, and professional linguists are thus not immune to sustainability challenges or to the detrimental impacts these can have on physical health, mental wellbeing, and job satisfaction (e.g., Lai, Heydon and Mulayim, 2015).

In this chapter, we define key concepts of global SD and global health, and psychological sustainability and wellbeing, drawing on literature on Global Sustainable Development (GSD) and Translation Studies (TS). A review of the research literature in these areas is provided to identify which key concepts, activities, people, and events have been explored thus far and what research methods are used to study issues of global health and wellbeing in different disciplines. Specific challenges relating to unsustainable practices and their impact on work and communities are examined, and reference is made to the translation industry from the individual translator’s perspective, covering the personal, emotional, and psychological sustainability and wellbeing of language professionals. Adopting the perspective of Translator Studies (Hu, 2004; Chesterman, 2021; Kaindl, 2021) and drawing on language industry publications (e.g., CIOL Insights Reports), we explore how professional linguists and their job satisfaction are being impacted by what Cronin called cyborg labour, resource exhaustion, and cultural depletion (2017, p. 105). Finally, the chapter concludes with some future-oriented perspectives, drawing on the fields of GSD and TS.

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