Translation: An age-old industry? Take a look!
If you think the language industry is new, think again! For as far back as we can see, man has needed to communicate; so the origin of translation is closely intertwined with that of language itself. It’s no coincidence that the oldest myth about translation is that of the Tower of Babel<img src="dl171" alt="dl171" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> A story in which Yahweh confounded the language of the earth so that people could not understand each other’s speech; thus the need, from that time on, for translation. In some respects, translation is to language what light is to sight. . Virtually upon the tower’s destruction, man needed a language industry; so translation can be seen as an enterprise in building, the building of meaning.
Translation is integrally related to reading and writing culture. It is a writing art and is as old as writing<img src="dl173" alt="dl173" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> A very ancient culture, the Sumerian civilization, developed a script called cuneiform, meaning “wedge-shaped,” which was written on clay tablets with a blunt reed. With the advent of writing, which differentiated language from speech, inter-language communication underwent a major change: a shift from interpretation (oral) to translation (written). The Behistun Inscription (around 515 BC) is one of the oldest documents reflecting the existence of translation in Antiquity. itself. In Ancient Greece<img src="dl183" alt="dl183" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> Despite the cultural prestige enjoyed by the Greek civilization, the Greek people were not translators. They focused on works written in Greek, especially since they considered themselves the inventors of the arts. However, there was a large, primarily Greek-speaking Jewish community living in Alexandria, for whom the Bible was translated from Hebrew into Greek. The translated text is known as the “Septuagint” because, according to legend, it took 72 translators to complete it. The Septuagint marks a crucial point in the development of “Western” culture: it introduced the Greeks to the Bible, thus integrating the Jewish identity into Greek culture. and Rome<img src="dl180" alt="dl180" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> The Romans were strongly influenced by the Greeks, whom they had conquered in the first century BC. Given the allure of Greek culture, particularly philosophy and literature, many Greek scholars were brought to Rome to teach Roman youth. It was at that time that the core of Roman education developed around Greek authors. The Latin people took the Greek models and adapted them to their tastes. Translation would play a crucial role in the creation of what would become Greco-Roman culture, the primary foundation of our own culture. , texts were translated; the scope of economic and cultural exchange required the work of translators. What’s more, in Rome<img src="dl176" alt="dl176" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> Livius Andronicus (285–204 BC), a Greek slave serving as a tutor for his master’s children, translated some of Homer’s work into Latin so he could teach it more easily to his pupils. He also wrote tragedy adapted from the Greek, giving rise to theatre in Rome. Through his translation, he contributed to the development of Latin. Thus, translation was central to education, social life and language development. Cicero (106–43 BC) used translation as a rhetorical and educational exercise, to hone his oratory skills and prose style. In addition to the communication function of translation, the Romans emphasized its civilizing role. , every educated man had to know how to translate! But it was really with the conversion of the West to Christianity<img src="dl178" alt="dl178" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> The conversion of the Latin world to Christianity (337 BC) marks what St. Augustine called Christiana tempora or Christian times. This era was characterized by the predominance of Latin in the West and Greek in the East. The Roman Empire became increasingly divided, with schisms mounting between Latin Christianity and the Greek-speaking world centred in Byzantium. The new geopolitical situation in the West required language recognition, which would come from translation. St. Jerome (347–420) produced a Latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate), and Boethius (470–525) set about translating the work of Plato and Aristotle but was unable to complete the task. that translation began to convey identity, that it had to become organized<img src="dl184" alt="dl184" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> The need fuelling Christianity to spread its message throughout the world would necessarily require translation. Thus, Bishop Wulfila (311–384) translated the Epistles into the Gothic language. Bishops Cyril (827–869) and Methodius (815–885) did the same for the Slavonic language. In the ninth century, Alfred the Great (849–899), the King of Wessex, translated religious, philosophical and historical works or had them translated in order to “civilize” his people. The power of translation as a tool for developing culture was already well known. ... become an industry of sorts! A real school of translation was created in Toledo<img src="dl172" alt="dl172" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> After Spain was reconquered from the Arabs (1085), Toledo became a city on the border of the Christian and Muslim worlds. Under the patronage of Archbishop Raymond of Toledo (1125–1152), the capital of Andalusia became a major centre for translation. Under King Alphonso X of Castile (1221–1284), the centre flourished. Many works were translated there, including laws, texts on astronomy and history, works of literature, music and poetry, and even books of games. The Italian Gerard of Cremona (1114–1187), along with Dominic Gundissalvi (1105–1181), was the most prolific translator of his time, translating more than 70 scientific works into Latin, including Ptolemy’s Almagest. , where documents were translated from Greek and Hebrew, but especially Arabic, since the House of Wisdom (A distant ancestor of the Translation Bureau!) in Baghdad<img src="dl182" alt="dl182" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> With the Islamic conquest, translation became essential. In the countries conquered, Arabic replaced Greek as the language of administration. During the Abbasid period (750–1258), a unique institution, the Bayt al-Hikma or House of Wisdom, developed in Baghdad. Scientific and philosophical works were translated there in order to assimilate foreign knowledge into the Islamic framework. Literary works were not translated, as they were not considered of immediate practical interest. had translated numerous works into that language, often the only copies then available. And what can be said about the monasteries of the Middle Ages<img src="dl181" alt="dl181" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> The Middle Ages was a fertile period for translation, but political division—which prevented the free flow of ideas—and the predominance of Latin, a learned language, contributed to confining culture to limited circles of specialists and exegetes. In Europe, the monks were the guardians of scholastic knowledge, and the monasteries—along with the cathedrals—constituted the initial core of what would evolve into universities. Here too, translation, which was central to book culture, was a touchstone in this civilizing movement. ? Weren’t they somewhat like translation firms? The work they produced paved the way for the renaissance<img src="dl179" alt="dl179" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> The medieval heritage of translation lay, in part, in an awareness of the different nature of languages and in the necessary refining of emerging national languages (vernacular or common languages). In Europe, the first major national literary works, namely those of Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch, illustrated the potential of languages other than Latin and Greek. They generated a revival in translation, as a number of kings and princes wanted to see works in their national language. Eastern scholars, particularly from Constantinople, revived interest in Greek Antiquity and consequently renewed translating efforts into both Latin and vernacular languages. of culture!
The first systematic analyses of language<img src="dl170" alt="dl170" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> The rediscovery of Latin and Greek literary heritage contributed to the development of philology—the in-depth study of texts. With it, translation became a means of not only communicating ideas but also critically analyzing texts. The Protestant Reformation, which sought to rediscover the original spirit of Christianity in the Scriptures, led to a reading revolution. Readers were to grasp in books the spirit in which they were written. Translation, from that point on, became an exercise in recreating the spirit of the original text, as indicated by Italian humanist Leonardo Bruni in his treatise De interpretation recta (1424). were based on translation, and it was thanks to the work of translators that national literatures<img src="dl169" alt="dl169" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> In 16th century Europe, national literatures emerged which were based on classical models. Translation played a leading role, as it was used to provide the models to be imitated and actively contributed to enriching the vocabulary of vernacular languages. Although the humanists preferred Latin over common languages to express lofty ideas, many produced translations. In France, that was true of Étienne Dolet, who translated Cicero and wrote a treatise on translation, and Jacques Amyot, who translated Plutarch’s Parallel Lives (1565). were able to develop. At a certain point, translation even provided an opportunity to be unfaithfulTranslations that deviated from the original text, to reflect the tastes, mores and aesthetic biases of 17th-century Baroque Europe, are known as “beautiful but unfaithful” (or belles infidèles in French). Their translators eliminated what they considered to be repetition, logical inconsistencies and unduly long passages in classical Roman and Greek texts. Translations were specifically aimed at the target culture, a trend that would become more pronounced as vernacular languages took root and were used in original works giving rise to classical European culture. ... And who said translators were boring? In fact, they know how to translate for the times, and it was with that in mind that the industry began to come together in the 18th century<img src="dl175" alt="dl175" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> In the early 18th century, a debate broke out among writers as to whether Ancient or Modern authors had more merits. Translation had its place in the “Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns” (known as the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes in French). The outcome was that texts should not be translated for scholars, nor should authors be betrayed by translations that embellish texts to suit the fashion of the day, but texts should be translated for the times. Translation began to reflect that new way of thinking. ... The translation industry no longer served strictly people and faith, it also strove to serve cultureThe early 19th century was marked by Romanticism, an artistic and philosophical movement that considered emotion a fundamental spiritual experience leading to truth and the arts as the first place where the true is given expression. All forms of artistic expression were extolled, including translation, which provided a key to grasping the spirit of nations. Translation became a tool for transcending national literatures and understanding that writing reflects a single spirit, a single truth, which was expressed in world literature. Translation, which had served the Renaissance Man, served Culture in the Romantic Period. .
In a country like Canada, translation, terminology and language analysis are nothing new<img src="dl185" alt="dl185" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> Translation in Canada became officially organized beginning with the British regime (1760). In 1768, François-Joseph Cugnet was the country’s first official translator. But it was not until 1841 that the act respecting translation proposed by journalist and MP Étienne Parent (1802 1874) was sanctioned. The act not only provided for French translation but also challenged the provisions of the Durham Report. Bilingualism, for its part, would be sanctioned in the British North America Act of 1867. Somewhat haphazard at the outset, translation became institutionalized in 1934 with the creation of the Translation Bureau. Translation in Canada is a symbol of national unity and a means of bringing the country’s two main language groups closer together. . And since our country is continuing to develop, the language industry, like it, is resolutely focused on the future<img src="dl174" alt="dl174" style="margin-right:10px;" align="left" /> The scope of translation required by global markets today far exceeds the capacity of professional translators. New avenues have to be explored. Machine translation, various language-related technologies, information retrieval and terminology databases are all part of the future of translation. Although the translator’s work is increasingly complex, the translator’s relationship with the text has been enriched by the contribution of language technologies. .
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