From Babylon to the age of Internet, translators have always played an important role in every significant historical event. Language professionals have allowed different countries to communicate, thus resolving important issues or discussing various topics. But, as we know, words and deeds remain and important intermediaries between them sink into historic nothingness.
For this reason, we decided to focus your attention to some important events that have marked the people who are dealing with one of the oldest professions in the world – translation.
In 382 the pope, Damasus, commissions the leading biblical scholar of the time, St. Jerome, to provide a translation of the Bible and this is how Vulgata was produced – the canonic Latin version of the Bible which is used in the Catholic church.
Today St. Jerome is revered as the patron saint of translators and scholars.
When returning to England from Italy where he was sent as an ambassador, Geoffrey Chaucer brought back manuscripts of Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio.
Chaucer is fluent in two languages: English and French; and although we can not call him a typical translator, he definitely has a major contribution to the fact that his contemporaries got acquainted with the works of the classics.
According to some sources, because of his early literary works and translations, in 1374 Chaucer receives an award from King Edward III – “a gallon of wine a day for the rest of his life.” This means approximately 4 liters and a half – every single day!
This year, La Malinche, also known as Dona Marina, was brought to Spain. La Malinche is a translator, a concubine and a confidante of Hernan Cortes. She becomes his translator during the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Before this, she learned different languages, after having been sold into slavery after her father’s death. Being a translator for almost ten years, she is described in popular culture as a traitor, hungry for sex and wealth. We are mentioning this fact because this enduring reputation of La Malinche highlights the complex nature of translation as a liaison between conflicting groups with conflicting objectives.
William Tyndale was arrested and jailed for a year before being executed for heresy. He was a key figure in the Protestant Reformation; he made a new translation of the Bible and this translation in particular leads to his untimely death. His translation is considered to be the first case of a registered biblical translation in English that draws directly from Hebrew and Greek texts.
The legendary English poet John Dryden promotes the approach in translation theory to distinguish between three types of translation: literal (literally to the text), paraphrased (adhering to the meaning, not the exact wording) and imitation (reconstruction of the text with a creative approach). These formulations originated in Ancient Greece, but Dryden is the one who brings them into the modern theory of translation.
The Nuremberg process marks the beginning of simultaneous translation as a standard in diplomatic conferences. During the process translation in four languages is done.
During World War II, time is essential and this leads to the need for translators with headphones and microphones to work in almost real time.