Friday, November 8, 2013

Intro to Translation Studies: Part 1

When it comes to languages, there is an activity which can appear incredibly simple and horrifyingly complex at the same time. This bipolar activity is translation. As part of a new series on The Lingua File, we'll be running a crash course on the "science" behind translation. We're not claiming to be experts on the subject, rather we're looking to inform all you language lovers out there that there is more to translation than making "language A" into "language B".

As you know, there are many languages in the world, and there have been for a very long time. Throughout history, peoples of different cultures, races, and languages tended to kill each other long before trying to communicate with one another, but when they actually did communicate, there was an inherent need for translation.

A marble bust of Cicero around age 60.
The act of translation was rarely studied prior to modern-day history, though translation scholars will often point to the second century BCE with Roman philosopher and jack of all trades Cicero. For the purpose of translation studies, not much is needed to be known about Cicero, other than that he was one of the first notable figures to openly think about the translation process whilst translating Greek philosophical theory into Latin. Cicero obviously knew both Greek and Latin, and he is known to have stated that the act of translation improved his speaking skills in both languages.

The sparse history of translation studies doesn't end there, though it certainly is lacking in events. It would be another 500 years before any notable figures would grace the translation studies scene, at least in Western translation studies history. The patron saint of translation is St. Jerome, whose day is honoured as International Translation Day for translators or the more secular-minded. For more information, you can see how we "loosely" covered the history of St. Jerome last year.

We'll be back on Monday continuing our first steps into the fascinating field of translation studies.

Part 1 | Part 2