Origin and Purpose
The increasingly global and multicultural world in which we live has rendered translation more and more important both as an actual, material practice and as a cultural phenomenon to be critically analyzed. The relative increase in human contact across linguistic-cultural boundaries (be they regional, national, continental, etc.) that has occurred in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries has generated, in turn, an increased need for communication across boundaries. This augmented need for cross-linguistic translation does not necessarily imply that the world is a more benign and communicative place. Indeed, periods marked by spiked political and cultural antagonism and tension between geo-linguistic entities, such as that following September 11th, generate a call for more translation from Arabic and other languages into English, and the reverse. As air travel and the internet have widened the actual and virtual traveler’s ambit far beyond the “European tour” of the nineteenth-century aristocrat, who might have the time and means to learn the major (western) European languages, translation has become increasingly necessary.
National and Global Demand
Despite the equivalence suggested by bilingual dictionaries, it is common knowledge that people do not say precisely the same things in different languages. Facial and corporeal gestures differ. Often colors are not designated similarly in unrelated languages. The social functions of the various meals of the day may be wildly dissimilar in various parts of the world. And when one combines infinitely multiplied commonplace terms such as these with the difficulties presented in interpreting such abstract notions as political sovereignty and individual identity from one language to another, one begins to glimpse both the difficulty and the vital interest of translating across languages.