Technology: the evolution of translation Part 1

All the way back in 1964, to describe the phenomenon by which the world’s culture was simultaneously shrinking and expanding due to the instantaneous sharing of culture originated by technological progress, the media and communication theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the term “global village.” 🌍

It’s safe to say that translation played a major role in this phenomenon.

But, of course, the world hasn’t always been a global village.

Looking back

Historically, translation has always played a crucial role in the diffusion of knowledge since it has allowed different peoples, speaking different languages, to share their own knowledge and culture.

Translation dates as far back as the ancient world, and everything we know today is the product of an amalgamation of information from different cultures, conveyed in and translated into many different languages.

The first known translator was Saint Jerome, who lived around 400 A.D. 🤯

Born in Dalmatia, today’s Croatia, he traveled the world from Rome, France, and the Syrian desert to Bethlehem, where he died. He was a very open-minded monk since he was interested in collecting both pagan and Christian books and was an insatiable reader and learner.

He had an amazing memory to retain all he had learned from his travels and reading and was known to be highly intelligent, but also a loner and a bit crabby!

He translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, so that’s why he is the patron saint of translators, archivists, libraries, and librarians.

Saint Jerome translated with tools such as ink and paper, paired with an outstanding brain and an excellent memory… Following his footsteps, translation mostly kept to religious, historical, and literary texts for many, many years to come.

In fact, the first mechanical translation tool, which stirred things up, was first introduced centuries later, in 1874: the typewriter.

Interestingly, the QWERTY keyboard model was developed for typewriters in the 1870s but remains the standard for the computer keyboards we’re using today.

In fact, my very first translations were made with an electronic Olivetti typewriter in the late 1980s, which made my transition to a small B&W Macintosh computer for my first job as a secretary in the mid-1990s relatively smooth! 😊

By the 80s, typewriters were already an indispensable tool in most commercial offices, but, also around this time, they began to be replaced by the first personal computers running word processing software.

By the early 2000s, many homes already had a personal computer and most commercial offices had ditched the typewriter and decided to go for a desktop PC.

The 2000s were a time of insanely fast technological progress… and the rest is history!

Progress is surely transforming today’s practices and markets… but to what extent?

To know the answer, be sure to read Part 2 of this article on the evolution of translation!

If you would like to know more, take a look at our reading suggestions:

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