Translation through History

Translation through History


The word “Translation” is derived from the Latin expression “Translatio” which consists of both syllables “Trans-” and “fero” meaning together “carrying or bringing across”. While the ancient Greek term for Translation is “Metaphrasis” whose verb is “Metaphrase” meaning “Literal Translation”.  Translation is also a culture: by translating an original work into another language, it becomes accessible to people of other cultures and turns into a particle of their own culture. The contribution of translators in diversifying the outlook of peoples and promoting relations among different countries is invaluable.

Translation is as old as writing itself. The first written language was invented in Mesopotamia around 3200 BC. This language was cuneiform, meaning that it used pictures to express words. Such pictures or symbols were drawn in clay with a stylus. Meanwhile, other written languages emerged including the Harappan Language in India, Hieroglyphic Language in Egypt and oracle bone script in China. With the emergence of multiple languages across the world, the need for translation arose.

Thereafter, the written language was developed in central Egypt, around 1700 BC for or by Semitic workers, to an alphabet system known as the Proto-Sinaitic script is thought by some to have been based on the ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic.

Amongst the very first ancient translations, are those of the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh into Asian languages from the second millennium BC. Later Buddhist monks translated Indian sutras into Chinese and Roman poets adapted Greek texts. Thereafter comes the most significant translation work in Armenia in 431-439 AD when the Holy Bible was translated from Hebrew Bible into Aramic, by Mesrop Mashtots, the founder of the Armenian alphabet – Mesrop Mashtots. The translation was first carried out by Mesrop Mashtots along with his disciples, and then the Armenian Catholicos Sahak Partev completed the translation. After that, Mesrop Mashtots and Sahak Partev were considered as the originators and founders of the art of translation in Armenia.

In the Middle Ages around 700 AD, Arabs conquered Spain. During his reign, the Arab ruler, Al-Hakam II, paid great effort to gather books from all over the Arab world, creating a library which would later become a center for translation into Latin. On the other hand, Arabic scholars perpetuated Greek wisdom by providing Arabic translations of their philosophical and scientific works which were Later translated into Latin.

*    This article was written and compiled using variety of online references and readings.
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