Translators have a profession with a centuries-old history. According to the Holy Scriptures, “the whole world had one language and a common speech” only “in the beginning”, before the construction of the Tower of Babel. But after God “confused their language so that one person couldn’t understand the speech of the other”, translators were surely needed in a hurry.

Translation is one of the most ancient professions. The emergence of translation dates back from the age of antiquity. As was the case for many areas of culture and science, Ancient Rome served as the cradle for the development of translation. Roman Philosopher and Politician Cicero is thus one of the first translators from Greek. He translated various works of the philosophers Plato and Demosthenes in the famous treatise “The Art of Poetry”, some works of Homer, Sophocles, Euripides and other Greek playwrights.  Another great Roman, Horace, was the first to use the term “translator”. Cicero was one of the first to use words like “translation” and “interpretation of the meaning of words”. Saint Jerome, having translated the Bible, also used this word to describe his occupation. In the Middle Ages, monk translators used the names “interpres” and “hermeneuma” as designations for their interesting profession. For example, words with Latin roots that carried the meaning “translation” appeared in France in the 13th and 14th century. The Latin word “translatio” leads to the French words “translateur” and “translation”. These words were also adopted gradually in other Romance languages. A new burst of translation activity led to the invention of printing and the Age of Reformation, after which holy Christian texts began to be translated from Latin into the national languages.

At the end of the twelfth century, people engaged in this type of activity were called “drouement” in France, while they were called “drogomanno” in Italy during the same time period. However, the development of this type of activity was fairly weak until the printing industry had emerged and began to prosper very quickly. It was also precisely then that this unique ability and profession, translation, became needed in practically the whole world.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez said that “translating is the most profound way of reading”. Of course,this remarkable thought refers to the type of translation that achieves its goals—conveying the meaning and form of the original as closely as possible. Continuing with this thought, you might say that interpreting is the most profound way of listening. And, by far, not everyone that speaks two languages has the ability (or skill), as well as many other abilities, necessary to be a good translator. Professionals honed their skills working without dictionaries and aids in war, diplomacy, and, as is currently accepted practice to speak of, joint projects, as well as in all other formats of international communication.

Let’s take a look at the Bible. In St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, the following is prescribed: “If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret.” The Bible itself, with its versions in different languages, constitutes one of the most ancient memorials, and, undoubtedly, a masterpiece that uplifts translation. History and legend bring us knowledge of the labor of translators from the time of the Punic Wars (they not infrequently conducted very important negotiations themselves then), and of how dragomans carried out sensitive assignments for rulers, and how Columbus sent young Indians to Spain so that they could help him as translators and interpreters, as well as intermediaries, upon returning to the New World.

However, during the Middle Ages in Europe, all educated people used Latin, while the common people had not yet become a part of the international communication, and demand for document translation went down.  The occupational prestige of the profession was also not high. European diplomacy had practically no need of translators for a long time, since French was generally accepted in international relations. However, the rapid development of national cultures led to the flourishing of literary translation, both prose and poetry.

A patent for simultaneous interpretation equipment was given in 1926 to an engineer by the name of Gordon Finley at IBM. However, this method of interpretation did not catch on right away. People preferred the “more noble” consecutive interpretation, which ensured maximum precision. Consecutive interpretation aces never interrupted the speaker, since they wrote down what was said with notes and shorthand, and then, sometimes after twenty to thirty minute speeches, they reproduced what was said. The record is held by one of the famous Kaminker brothers, Andre, who, at a conference, interpreted the speech of a French diplomat who spoke nonstop for two and a half hours.

Modern translators are people that are able to translate texts professionally regardless of their complexity from one language to another while retaining the meaning and not distorting facts. They translate socio-political and economic literature, as well as other types of specialized literature, patent descriptions, technical standards, shipping documentation, materials from correspondence with foreign organizations, as well as conference materials, meeting materials, and seminar materials, etc. They produce translations for interpretation and translation assignments that are complete and concise within deadlines, thus ensuring that the translations conform exactly to the lexical, stylistic, and semantic meaning of the original, and that requirements with regard to the use of scientific and technical terms and definitions are met. They proofread their translations.  They prepare annotations and summaries of foreign literature and scientific and technical documentation. They participate in drawing up issues papers concerning foreign materials. They play a leading role in work to standardize terms, to improve concepts, and to define translation subject areas by how they correspond to the economic, scientific and technical, and accounting fields, as well as work to systematize completed translations, annotations, and summaries.

The International Federation of Translators announced in 1991 that September 30 will henceforth be called International Translation Day or Saint Jerome Day.


Little known pages of history.
The patron saint of all translators Saint Jerome is considered the patron saint of translators. He lived in Bethlehem at the end of the 4th century AD. Saint Jerome, who loved traveling, completed a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, visited the Chalcidian desert, where he studied Hebrew for as long as four years, and then finally settled down in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was just the place where Saint Jerome also became famous for translating the Old Testament into Latin. It was ever since then that Saint Jerome came to be considered the longstanding patron saint of all translators.

The patron saint of interpreters. Lisbon and Padua contend for the right to call themselves his home town, and the conflict has not been settled to this day, since the Saint worked quite a few miracles during his lifetime, both on the battlefield and in religious pursuits. Saint Anthony, who lived in the 14th century, may be recognized as the patron saint of interpreters.

Saint Anthony is buried in Italy, in the small picturesque city of Padua. His sarcophagus is a place of pilgrimage and great honor for the faithful: it is thought that one touch of the burial vault’s marble slab helps fulfill wishes and cure diseases and ailments.  It is always crowded in the side chapel of the cathedral where his grand tomb of white marble is located. However, the most amazing thing, if you believe religious sources, is that two hundred years after his death, when the relics of the Saint were being carried into the new sarcophagus, to the astonishment of witnesses, his tongue was pink, and was moving and making various sounds.

That is why Saint Anthony may be considered the patron saint of interpreters, because the tongue of interpreters, in spite of everything, has to work and make sounds, preferably articulate and understandable sounds, one minute in one language and the next minute in another.

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