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The History of Translation

By Ines Alexandre


Over the centuries, translation has been a key part of the advancement of societies throughout the world. In the early years, translators were hard to find and yet their work was very valuable and had a significant effect on various sectors, such as religion and politics. Today, the demand for translators and their services continues to rapidly increase worldwide, aiding with international trade and cultural exchange.

Around the third century, Jews who had forgotten Hebrew needed the Bible to be translated into Greek in order to be able to read it and so 70 translators were commissioned with the task in Alexandria, Egypt. After working in solitary confinement on the Septuagint, the name given to this translation, legend states that all of the translations produced were identical. One of the oldest debates in the translating community is whether sense-for-sense translations or word-for-word translations are better. St. Jerome, who translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, was an avid supporter of the sense-for sense translation. Also, the spread of Buddhism resulted in extensive translations over thousands of years throughout Asia. Similarly, once the Arabs conquered the Greek Empire, they set about translating all significant Greek philosophical and scientific texts into Arabic.


During the Middle Ages, there were not many translations of texts in Latin available in vernacular languages, since Latin was the most popular language. King Alfred the Great commissioned translations from Latin to English of the important works: “Ecclesiastical History of the English People” by Bede and “The Consolation of Philosophy” by Boethius. As a result of this decision, the underdeveloped English prose was improved. A significant group of translators to consider in this era is the Escuela de Traductores de Toledo (the Toledo School of Translators). They translated medical, scientific, religious and philosophical works into Castilian and Latin from Hebrew, Greek and Arabic.

With the advancement in technology and the growth of the middle class in the 16th century, the development of the printing press proved to be a very pivotal moment in the history of translation. It came at a time when the demand for literary materials increased.


Nowadays, knowledge of foreign languages is a very sought-after skill in the world of work as we become a more multicultural society, which is enriched by cultural exchange and awareness. In the modern age, the creation of the Internet has had a great impact on translating. It has also created a global market for language services such as the development of translation software and localization services. As a result, jobs have been created for translators globally which opens up the prospect for many to become freelance translators. As a small but very important part of this wider industry, we offer certified translation services, which are required for many formal procedures around the world. As you can see from this article, we have a proud history behind us and we hope to continue this positive means of communication and bringing of people together by means of our work.

Facts about translation:

· The word ‘translation’ derives from the Latin term meaning “to bring or carry across”.

· The Feast Day of St Jerome (30th September), infamous for his translation of the Bible and who is the patron saint of translators, is International Translation Day.

· The 3 most translated authors are Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and William Shakespeare.

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