The History of Translation

Understanding history requires a deeper knowledge of ancient cultures, languages, human behaviors and the systems that influenced them. Translation is among the tools that help with understanding history. Whether it is verbal or non-verbal communication, oral or written, knowing how to understand communication between two or more parties can shed a lot of light on their relationship and the systems that influence it.

Today, translation is a booming industry that many businesses pay thousands of dollars for. Governments, hospitals, universities, and other institutions have many reasons for needing translation services. Whether a country wants to open up its borders to immigrants from neighboring lands or a hospital wants medical translators to help their foreign patients settle in, translation is a necessary function for every institution.

Early History of Translation

Derived from the Latin term meaning “to bring or carry across”, translation refers to any written communication in a second language that has the same meaning as the written communication in the first language. Translation is a tool that has been used throughout the ages to pass on information to other parties.

The earliest known translation is from the Mesopotamian era when the Sumerian poem, Gilgamesh, was communicated to people in faraway lands after being translated into Asian languages. After this translation in the second millennium BC, other ancient texts were translated too. One good example is the translation of Indian documents into Chinese, done by Buddhist monks.

It is said that the only reason we have access to the intelligent recordings and findings of Greek scholars is because of the brilliant translation work of Arabic translators. These texts were then translated into Latin and created a base for the theories of Renaissance scholars. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have translation services either. Speaking of which, if you are looking for quality translation services online, make sure to only trust reputable providers. Before hiring a translator, read reviews online and research their website.

Popular Translators Throughout History

Translation might seem like a menial task and that’s only because we are at a stage of technological development where we have everything prepared for us by someone else. However, historically speaking, translation was not an easy job to do. Individual translators had to manually extract sentences from texts, find the best word in a second language that can convey the same meaning, and do it for every single word in the sentence.

They would have to repeat this process for all the paragraphs and combine them into documents. How is it that people who worked so hard to make sure that we don’t lose important texts and documents throughout history are never named and celebrated?

Some of the most important and famous translators in history are William Tyndale, Xuanzang, Constance Garnett, and Gregory Rabassa. These skilled individuals all worked on translating different types of texts. For example, Barnett worked on translating foreign classics to English whereas Xuanzang worked on translating Indian Buddhist texts into Chinese.

Religious Translations

Translation became more of a necessity when religious texts and spiritual knowledge began being propagated by the popular religions of the world. Whether it was the Hebrew Bible, Islamic Quran, the Old Testament, or other religious documents, leaders of these religions wanted to spread the word and encourage faith. The best way to do this was to translate texts into different languages and distribute them far and wide.

The need to convey various religious information, combined with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, i.e., the printing press, led to a wave of religious texts being translated. The first example of a translated religious text is of the Old Testament when it was translated into Greek, manually, by 70 scholars.

One of the historical impacts of religious translation is the division of the Christian Bible into the Latin and English Bibles. With the introduction of Protestantism, the bible got translated in different ways, leading to its distinct representations and religious followers.

To Conclude

The internet has made it really easy for us to get instant translations at any moment in time. Language learning apps and translation services have assisted in the same. This may make it look like translating is a simple job, but it is not. It took hundreds of years to perfect the art of translation, and there is more progress to be made. Hopefully, this short tour into the world of translation was insightful for you!

Author’s Bio – Carl Hill

Carl Hill is a linguist and a language enthusiast who has his own blog. He often writes about translation services and the history of the world of translation. He’s currently writing his first book on translation techniques used by experts and interviewing hundreds of translation experts for the same.

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