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Translators… All Time Fighters

Translators are fighters by nature. They fight against time, cultural barriers, deadlines among a long series of endless challenges. However, this does not mean that translators are not real fighters of war. They may not carry a weapon, but they carry their knowledge instead. In fact, translators have a long history in wars, where they do their noble jobs among fire and bombs.

Interestingly, the first known translator in a war context is a woman, whose name was Malintzin. When Spanish conquerors first landed on the lands of the Aztec Empire, currently known as Mexico, one of the first challenges they faced was communicating with local citizens of these faraway lands. Therefore, they sought the help of Malintzin, who learnt Spanish quickly and became the personal interpreter of Cortés, the leader of the Spanish forces.

Translators and interpreters also played vital roles in modern wars including WWI, WWII and even the cold war. In many occasions, they helped to ease negotiations and communications. In many others, translators contributed in documenting and proving war crimes committed by the countries’ enemies. However, sometimes translators unintentionally ignited the tension of the war, as was the case with the famous incident from the cold war when Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev said “Мы вас похороним!” which means “we will outlive you” referring to the US, but it was translated by the translator as “We will bury you”. If you cannot see the difference, just give it a second thought.

This is a brief proof how critical the profession of translation is; it is undoubtedly a profession of fighters!