A Short History of Translation

Short History Translation

Translation is only needed because people around the world cannot communicate in a single universal language and need to do so in writing or in the printed form, anyway. If everyone around the world could understand English, or Chinese, equally well, then it would probably make life a lot easier, but there would be no work for either interpreters or translators and no history of translation!

Since the time that humanity first learned to speak, there has been a need for those whose language was different to be able to understand each other. It took thousands of years of human social evolution before populations became so large that communities found themselves living close to others who spoke a different language from them. Add the desire for trade and you have the perfect reason to invent the very first interpreters. Add writing and records, books and manuscripts, bibles and other holy books there are the ingredients for the earliest translation services.

The basic pre-requisites then for translation to emerge are:

  • people wanting to communicate in different languages;
  • development of written language.

 

What You Should Know About The History Of Translation?

The first translators in the western world as far as we know arose at the same time as the Bible was first written down. Because Christianity spanned populations who spoke many different languages, translators became necessary to translate the Bible so that all Christians could have access to it. Interestingly, it was missionaries attempting to introduce their version of Christianity to the far reaches of the world who were instrumental in learning many new languages for the first time, developing written forms of them and dictionaries so that interpreting and translation could take place.

The need for translators grew very slowly through the Middle Ages as trade increased, migration increased and gradually books, records and manuscripts became an accepted part of civilized society. For much of the period until the twentieth century, the role of interpreters was far more important than that of translators, though.

The twentieth century saw an explosion of translation services. What would have been a job for an individual grew into jobs for businesses and agencies employing specialised translators.

The fastest growth period in the history of translation is the current period of rapid globalisation. Nations and populations are tied together by a web of trade agreements, international policies and organisations. The development of the Internet has accelerated globalisation and international communication. The diversity of languages is more or less undiminished; so if there is a greater demand for translation companies than ever before it is because of the need for communication.

Who knows what the future will bring? There is a trend emerging for protectionism and isolationism as evidenced by the Trump Administration in the U.S., Brexit in Britain and nationalist and populist movements in Europe. Whether this will stem the exponential rise in why translation companies are needed is yet to be seen.

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