Skip to content

You probably owe that idea to a translator

There are fewer jobs as vital yet as unrecognized than that of interpreters and translators. Yet imagine for a moment a world of Aristotle in classical Greek alone. For those who do not speak it, and neither know Hebrew or Aramaic, the Bible would remain more of an impenetrable mystery. And we could only imagine what the One Thousand and One Nights were about. For the most part and for the most important books of all times, we do not know the names of those who rendered these magisterial words and ideas, which set the course of civilization and history, to wider audiences. It is part of the job description: the translator’s hand and prominence has to be as inconspicuous as possible as he renders the original into the end language as if written or spoken by the author himself. Sadly, however, it does not always earn the appreciation of bean counters, if not the public. As Tim Parks says in “The Translation Paradox,” an Italian publisher’s staff had been advised by the accountants in the 1990s to hire less expensive translators, for their research had showed that readers could not tell a good translation from a bad one. Indeed, if you are reading a translation it is probably because you cannot read the original. It is perhaps why it is so important to get it right, and that there are permanently revisions to the translations of everything from the Holy Scriptures to scientific papers, because the devil is in the details, or in a bad translation.


Leave a ReplyCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.