It is hard to pinpoint exactly when the art of translation would have first occurred. Of course, one of the earliest and without doubt the most translated book in history is The Bible. There were certainly scholars in the days before Christ making a trade from translating ancient Hebrew. Possibly even before that, there were those skilled at deciphering pictures and concepts on scroll.
In an ever-shrinking world, however, where thoughts and ideas are channelled through the virtual waves of the internet, professional translation services are in huge demand. With online translation services becoming increasingly popular, there are literally thousands of translators employed worldwide. It has often been said that ‘knowledge is power’, but in today’s multi-cultural society, we have an inkling that it is in fact fast becoming ‘language’.
With demand, of course, comes the need to supply, and with supply, consequently the need to teach. One of the most famous early examples of translation schooling was at Toledo. Initially set up in the 12th Century by Archbishop Raymond of Toledo, there was focus on translating philosophical and scientific work from ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic into Latin. Later, under the guidance of King Alfonso X, translation was progressed one step further, into what were in fact the early foundations of the modern Spanish language. It was here in the culture rich 13th Century Spain, where multi-culturalism really gained prominence, and indeed inspiration within the ranks of scholars.
Throughout history, as empires have risen and fallen, and new states have emerged, more and more languages have developed. Latest statistics suggest that in the world there now exists an astounding 6909 individual languages. With the culture and politics of the world gradually intertwining more and more, as globalisation takes hold, we are not yet moving towards a mono-linguistic world, but perhaps advances in translation technology is the key.
Machine translation has been discussed by linguistic scholars since Descartes first considered the idea in the 17th century. As it has developed there has been much debate as to whether it will ever be possible for a machine to fully translate a text independently of a human controller. Such doubts come largely down to the issue of context and words with multiple meanings. With computer translation services still facing pitfalls, it seems that the translation sector is one that will continue to grow and to flourish.
There are now a number of specialist Schools and Universities in existence, armed with the responsibility of training up the world’s future translators. With language fast becoming a key component of growth, development, and understanding, it is absolutely key that the standards are kept to an extremely high level. Although some certificates exist that give a general qualification covering general translation, there are also specific niches, such as medical, legal, and conference interpreting.
According to a recent US NEWS study, the leading University in the world for the study of Linguistics is Cambridge, followed closely by Oxford, and then Harvard. You can see the top ten from that table below;
1) University of Cambridge
2) University of Oxford
3) Harvard University
4) University of California, Berkeley (UCB)
5) Stanford University
6) University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
7) University of Edinburgh
8) Massachusetts’s Institute of Technology (MIT)
9) McGill University
10) Australian National University (ANU)
There are also a whole host of specific translation courses and schools around the world, and with the art of translation becoming more and more important in today’s society, academic study of translation is only set to grow further.