Modern humans rely on many technological tools to facilitate translation and interpretation. Apps, software and even artificial intelligence make translating easier and more reliable. To get to this point, humans had to go through old-fashioned translation using the tools they had available at the time, coupled with some ingenuity, hard work, and even luck. Akorbi discusses major historical milestones of translation and interpretation.
1. Latin Bible Translated in 382
Pope Damasus commissioned St. Jerome to produce a Latin Bible for the church to read. The Vulgate Bible became the primary text for the Catholic Church for the next 1,000 years until Gutenberg and the removable type printing press made it easier to print books on a large scale. The Vulgate Bible standardized translation and interpretation for a significant holy text in a major world religion.
2. Geoffrey Chaucer Translated the Classics in 1372
Geoffrey Chaucer went to Italy and brought back works by Francesco Petrarch and Giovanni Boccaccio in 1372. Although not a translator by trade (Chaucer also spoke French), the famous author of The Canterbury Tales used classics from Italy as the basis for his masterpiece. His poems weren’t possible without translation and interpretation.
3. La Malinche and the Conquest of Mexico in 1519
La Malinche was an Aztec woman who quickly learned Spanish when Hernán Cortés was conquering Mexico for his country in 1519. She served as an interpreter for almost 10 years after learning several native languages. Her role highlighted the complex nature of translation and interpretation between two very different cultures with varying goals and aspirations.
4. Rosetta Stone Discovered in 1799
Napoleon Bonaparte’s soldiers were rebuilding a fort in Egypt in the town of Rashid (Rosetta) when they accidentally uncovered the Rosetta Stone in 1799. The stone currently sits in The British Museum in London. On the stone is the same text in three languages, including Egyptian hieroglyphs, ancient Egyptian demotic, and Greek. The tablet allowed scholars to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs for the first time, unlocking the key to studying an ancient civilization thanks to translation and interpretation.
5. Nuremberg Trials of 1945
The Nuremberg Trials of 1945 saw the first major usage of real-time translation and interpretation on a mass scale. People employed simultaneous interpretation as the standard for diplomatic conferences when they translated German into several languages using microphones and headsets. This standard continues today at high-level meetings between multiple countries, such as at the United Nations.
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