Throughout the history of civilization, one can identify several professional interpreters that played crucial roles in the actions and development of many cultures. It isn’t hard to deduce why they were so influential: they acted as links between different tribes, ethnic groups and rising nations.
In this article, you’ll learn about 4 translators whose knowledge left an indelible mark, and why they were so important in history.
Gaspar Antonio Xiú
Gaspar Antonio Xiú was a gifted mayan writer who was born in 1531 and lived during the conquest of the Yucatan peninsula by the Spanish Crown. By that time the Mayans held one of the few fully developed writing systems in the American continent. It was no coincidence that Xiú became one of the most influential professional interpreters of his era.
Also known as Gaspar Antonio Chí, this man was an expert in mayan tongues, and soon grew to master the Spanish language. His work had a direct impact on King Charles V’s understanding of the mayan culture, who had requested the writer’s aid. Xiú was able to outline his own opinions and point of view in the exchange of missives with the King of Spain. He was also an informant for his people.
She is one of the best known and documented professional interpreters in the history of the American continent. Born in the tribe of the Shoshone, she guided explorers Lewis and Clark in their famous expedition across northern American territory from East to West.
Sacagawea was not only a translator but also an explorer and naturist. She served by building cultural bonds between the English speakers and some of the natives that lived between what today is North Dakota and the Pacific Ocean. Her work also contributed to the general knowledge of natural history in the early United States. Today, she is considered a symbol of women’s worth and independence.
Amongst Christian priests, some excelled for their writing skills combined with the determination to bring christianity to new cultures and languages. Jerome was one of them. In fact, he was declared a saint after a lifetime of working in this order.
Born in Stridon, in the times of the Roman Empire (between 342 and 347 A.D.) this theologian and historian was the first to translate most of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. This extensive version, called the Vulgate, became the Catholic Church’s official rendering of the Bible and remained unedited for more than a thousand years.
One of the most pragmatic of all professional interpreters known was Tisquantum, nicknamed Squanto. This native Patuxet -who became the last of his tribe- was kidnapped and taken into Spain, to be schooled by the local monks of Málaga.
Then, he traveled to England, where he learned the language, to finally return to his motherlands. Once he found out his tribe had been wiped out by an epidemic infection, Squanto established himself with the Wampanoag tribe. Soon he learned the importance of the skills he had acquired and intervened to ease tensions between the Mayflower Pilgrims and the Pokanoket tribe. Tisquantum is remembered as a diplomat in the United States.
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