Today my colleagues around the globe celebrate the International Translation day. Of course, I also accept congratulations and, in my turn, express my best wishes to translators, interpreters, terminologists, editors, proofreaders and other professionals, who dedicated themselves to a noble mission of breaking language barriers and establishing communication between people. Why is this holiday celebrated on September 30th?
September 30th is the feast of St. Jerome (born in about 347, died in about 420), who has always been considered the patron saint of translators and interpreters throughout the world. St. Jerome, a Christian scholar and historian, translated the Bible from Hebrew and Aramaic into Latin. A previous version (now called the Old Latin) existed, but Jerome’s version far surpassed it in scholarship and in literary quality. Jerome was well versed in classical Latin (as well as Greek and Hebrew), but deliberately translated the Bible into the style of Latin that was actually spoken and written by the majority of people in his own time. This kind of Latin is known as Vulgate Latin (meaning the Latin of the common people), and accordingly Jerome’s translation is called the Vulgate.
Two facts that strike me the most about this translation project. First is the time frame. He began his work in 382 and completed it by 405. 23 years of studying different sources, language versions, praying and translating. What an example of professionalism, dedication and sacrifice! Second – originally, Jerome was commissioned by Pope Damasus I just to revise the Old Latin text of the four Gospels. However, Jerome went further, and after completing the original task, he re-translated the Old Testament, using the existing Hebrew texts, as all Latin versions at that time were translated from Greek, not Hebrew. Again, what an inspiration and example of meticulousness and attention to details for us, modern day translators!
And at the end a little personal touch to this magnificent story. A couple of months ago I attended an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery called “Of Heaven & Earth: 500 Years of Italian Paintings from Glasgow Museums”.
Many beautiful paintings on several floors, however, as a translator, I was attracted to a piece “Landscape with St Jerome” by Domenichino.
Actually, the author depicts St. Jerome working on his translations. I would say that forefather of all translators had ideal working conditions: open air, beautiful landscape, no distractions from phones and Internet. Just kidding, because I would miss my laptop, my online dictionaries and rare facebook injections 🙂