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A Glance at Translation’s History

Updated: Jan 31

Author: Seda Özmen

Publication date: 05.10.2023

Translation has always been a remarkable human endeavor that connects cultures. In fact, it has a rich and fascinating history that stretches back millennia. From ancient civilizations to the modern globalized world, the translation has played a vital role. Actually, translation has shaped culture and facilitated communication a lot. Even the knowledge has been preserved. Let’s explore the evolution of translation in this journey through time. Keep reading if you want to learn the challenges translation has faced and its interesting history.

Translation’s History

Ancient Origins

Ancient origine of translation

The Latin verb for "to bring or carry across" is where the word "translation" originates. However, the history of translation can be traced back to the dawn of human civilization. In ancient Mesopotamia, around 2400 BC, the Sumerians created some of the earliest known written records.

In particular, it happens by translating their spoken language into script on clay tablets. At that time, the well-known Sumerian poem "Gilgamesh" has been translated into various Asian languages. Later on, the works of Ancient Greek academics were translated into Arabic (hundreds of years later). Yet Ancient Greek literature was known to have been translated by Roman scholars. Roman scholars used the works as the basis of their literary works.

The Middle Ages and the Renaissance

5th-15th century

Translation of Greek and Roman texts

During the Middle Ages (5th to 15th century), translation continued to flourish. Scholars in Islamic, Jewish, and Christian cultures translated and preserved Ancient Greek and Roman texts. The Bible was also translated into those languages. People started to translate religious texts into different languages. This helped many more people to read and understand the word of God in their own language. So, the translation of religious texts allowed for the spread of religions to different parts of the world.

The Renaissance (14th-17th century)

Old Greek and Roman works were once again very popular throughout the Renaissance (14th to 17th century). There was a big push to translate ancient texts. This led to many new discoveries in science, art, and philosophy. People like Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei were able to learn and create new things thanks to these translated works.


For instance, Gutenberg invented a device to make it easier to print books, which made it much easier for people to share these translated writings. The primary goal of translation during the Middle Ages was to make ancient texts accessible in Latin. However, it helped to advance knowledge and shape Europe's cultural identity.

The Birth of Modern Translation

As time moved on, the translation began to focus on being faithful to the original text. Translators started to pay more attention to the style, tone, and context of the original works. They wanted to make sure that the translated text was as close to the original as possible.

The Birth of Modern Translation

In the 19th and 20th centuries, with the rise of new nations and the formation of modern national languages, the need for translation grew more. More and more books, scientific works, and literary pieces were translated.

During the two World Wars, translation played a crucial role in deciphering enemy codes and communicating with allies. The work of codebreakers and translators was vital for the success of military operations. Translation was no longer just about sharing knowledge and culture, but also about survival and strategy.

Translation Today

Google Translate as a tool for modern translation

Now, in our modern world, translation is everywhere. We see it in books, movies, and even on the internet. With the rise of technology, we have tools like Google Translate that help us understand texts in different languages quickly. Translation helps people from different parts of the world to communicate and understand each other better.

What is translation about?

Translation is not just about words. It is also about understanding the culture and context behind those words. Translators work hard to make sure that the meaning of the text is preserved, and the cultural nuances are respected. They face many challenges, like finding the right words and making sure that the translation makes sense in the target language.

The importance of translation

The importance of translation in our globalized world cannot be overstated. It allows for the sharing of ideas and knowledge. What’s more, it helps in promoting mutual respect and understanding among different cultures. Besides this, it opens doors to new learning and discoveries. In fact, without translation, the world would be a much more divided and isolated place.

The need of translation

The need for translation is expected to grow as the world becomes more connected. People will continue to seek to understand and learn from different cultures. Translation will continue to play a vital role in building bridges between different languages and cultures.

Why do we need Translation in our lives?

Knowledge and human progress: the heart of translation

In conclusion, translation has come a long way since the ancient times of the Sumerians and Greeks. It has evolved through the ages, adapting to the needs and challenges of each era. From enabling the spread of religions to facilitating international cooperation, translation has been at the heart of human progress. And as we move forward into the future, it will continue to shape our world. This way, it fosters mutual understanding and shared knowledge, and brings people closer together.


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