The Short History of Translation

The word translation derives from a Latin term which means “to bring or carry across”. The Ancient Greek term is “metaphrasis” meaning “to speak across”. This gives the term “metaphrase” (word-for-word translation) which contrasts with “paraphrase” (saying something in other words). This distinction was important for the theory of translation throughout its history. Horace and Cicero employed it in Rome, Dryden used it in the seventeenth century and it still exists today in the debates concerning “formal equivalence versus dynamic equivalence”.
The first known translations are from the second millennium BC when the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh was translated into Asian languages. Later on, Indian sutras were translated into Chinese by Buddhist monks and Greek texts were adapted by Roman poets.
What have kept Greek wisdom and learning alive were translations made by Arabs. After they had conquered the Greek world, they made Arabic versions of its scientific and philosophical works. These Arabic versions were translated into Latin during the Middle Ages. Latin translations from Greek and Arabic helped to underpin Renaissance scholarship.
Religious texts are also of a great importance for the history of translation. One of the first known translations in the West was the translation of the Old Testament into Greek in the 3rd century BC. This task was carried out by 70 scholars and it became the basis for many translations into other languages.
Industrialization in the eighteenth century has led to the formalization of translation for business purposes. However, what really revolutionized the field was the internet and mechanical translations. As globalization moves on, the need for translation increases.

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Zespół Tłumaczy K. Litwin, J. Czernia S.C.