Skip to main content

Did you know these facts about translation?

First of all, I'd like to remind you about the contest that we are running at Sharp End Training Russia. A simple tweet or Facebook "like" can make you a winner of our Complete Blogging Toolkit for Translators! It's a wonderful opportunity! The contest will be running until October 20, so don't miss your chance! You can read more here.

For those who are interested in translation and especially for my wonderful colleagues all over the world, I decided to make a list of 10 cool facts about our profession. I am sure you wouldn't mind if we celebrate our profession once again, would you? So here are the facts:

'Martin Luther' photo (c) 2009, Heather Kennedy - license:
Martin Luther
1. The word translation derives from the Latin translatio (which itself comes from trans- and fero, together meaning "to carry across" or "to bring across").
2. Translation is one of the most ancient professions in the world. In fact, in the first century BC Cicero and Horace made some valuable comments on translation practice, including the difference between word-for-word translation and paraphrase (translating the meaning versus translating words).
3. In the 13th century, Roger Bacon wrote that if a translation is to be true, the translator must know both languages, as well as the science that he is to translate. Since he found out that very few translators complied with those requirements, his deepest desire was to get rid of translation and of translators altogether.
'Cicero' photo (c) 2011, Skara kommun - license:
4. Martin Luther was the first European who said that a translator can do the job well only if the translation is done into his or her native language. If you remember, Luther was also a translator (he translated the Bible into German).
5. By the way, the Bible is the most translated book in the world. The full Bible was translated into more than 469 languages, and it was partially translated into 2,527 languages.
6. Quran is also mentioned among the most translated religious books. It was translated into most African, Asian and European languages. However, I wasn't able to find the exact number of languages and dialects :(
7. Most translators are actually pretty young! About 48-50% of all professional translators are in their thirties.
8. Among the most famous translators you will find the names of Nostradamus, Vladimir Nabokov and his wife Vera Nabokova, Seamus Heanney (he translated Beowulf into English), Sir Richard Burton (he translated One Thousand and One Nights). You can see the list of famous translators here
9According to the Index Translationum, UNESCO's inventory of book translations, Agatha Christie is the most translated author in history.
Among other top translated authors you will find the names of Jules Verne, William Shakespeare, Vladimir Il'ic Lenin (can't believe it!), Hans Christian Andersen, and Stephen King.
10. Among the most translated books you will find Don Quixote (I couldn't find the exact number of languages to which it was translated, but it is one of the most influential literary works in the world and possibly 2nd most translated book after the Bible), Pilgrim's Progress (translated into 200 languages), Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (translated into 250 languages and dialects).

While I was looking for these facts I found numerous resources where you can find even more interesting info. Here are the main ones:
Wikipedia, article about Translation;
Wikipedia, article about literary works by the number of translations;
Wikipedia, article about Quran translations;
World of Translation blog by Language Translation Inc.;
Translation Directory, article about the history of translation
Guinness World Records website

What other interesting facts about translation do you know? Feel free to share them in comments!


  1. Hallo Kollegen!

    Zu Punkt 6:

    Eine kurze Recherche hat ergeben:

    Der Quran (der Vielgelesene, 1.Vers İkra bedeutet, Lese und denke auf die Art und Weise, wie der Schöpfer des Universums dir im Quran zeigt!) wurde in alle Sprachen der Welt übersetzt!

    Der Quran stellt auf 40 verschiedene Art und Weise ein Wunder dar, welcher seit 14 Jahrhunderten nicht nachgeahmt werden konnte!

    Serdar Mermey
    DE-TR-DE Dolmetscher und erm. Übersetzer
    (Mehr: siehe bei XING!)

  2. Hallo Sedar,
    Danke schoen fuer die Information. Aber Wikipedia sagt, dass "Translation of the Qur'an has always been a problematic and difficult issue in Islamic theology. Since Muslims revere the Qur'an as miraculous and inimitable (i'jaz al-Qur'an), they argue that the Qur'anic text cannot be reproduced in another language or form." (
    Ist das wahr?

  3. Die Info auf Deutsch ist hier:

  4. Hallo Kollegin Olga,
    danke für deine Interessante Frage!

    Zu "Aber Wikipedia sagt": wie schon bei anderen Themen (z.Bsp. die Anzahl der türkischsprechenden Völker) erfahren, differieren die Angaben zur Wirklichkeit um mehrere Hundert Prozent! Selbst wenn die Angaben nur zu 10% differieren würden, waeren diese Informationen schon ziemlich fraglich!

    Daher ist Wikipedia für mich keine verlaessliche Quelle mehr!

    Nun zu Deiner Frage: selbst wenn Du ein Gedicht zu 100% (also Inhalt und Intension und ganz gezielte und bestimmte Wortauswahl) in eine andere Sprache übertragen willst, SCHEITERST DU SEHR SCHNELL ! Geschweige denn, wenn der Text die ganz spezifisch ausgewaehlten und von seiner Tiefe und Bedeutung her Jahrhunderte umfassenden Wunderwörter FÜR DIE MENSCHHEIT darstellen!!!

    Daran siehst Du, dass eine tatsaechliche voll zutreffende Übersetzung nicht möglich sein kann!

    Manchmal bedarf die Erlaeuterung eines Verses ein kleines Buch! Der Quran beantwortet die grösste Frage des Menschen überhaupt:


    Selbst die kurze Frage zu übersetzen: WOHIN FOLGT DEINE REISE? ist ziemlich schwierig und stellt Dich vor einige neue Fragen, da Du wahrscheinlich entsprechendes Vorwissen nicht hast ;))

    Ich hoffe, Deine Frage etwas beantwortet zu haben und verbleibe

    mit kollegialen Grüssen
    PS: Für weitere Fragen bitte gerne auch per email

  5. Very interesting!
    What I definitely want to add is that the prevailing majority of translators and interpreters are in perfect physical shape. I noticed it in 2010 when I first visited the Translation Forum Russa, and I was not disapointed this year when I visited the Forum again. Regardless of their age and sex, all colleagues look great! Nearly no overweight people, really a few who smoke, but a lot who can dance as if they are 18, though they are much older than that. All colleagues are dressed as if they have just left one of the top fashion shops, and so on...

  6. Olga, thank you! That's very interesting indeed.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

10 interesting facts about the Russian language

In my previous post  I promised to follow with the  interesting info about some other languages. So here are 10 facts about the Russian language which might be of interest to those who are studying it. If you would like to have this list in Russian, please contact me and I will send it to you by email. So, what do I find interesting about my native language? 1. Russian has about 500,000 words, but only 2,000-2,500 of them are used frequently. 100 most frequently used words make 20% of all written and oral speech. A high school graduate's vocabulary usually has 1,500 to 4,000 words. Those who have graduated from a higher educational institution normally have a richer vocabulary consisting of approximately  8,000 words. 2. It's compulsory for all astronauts in the international space station to learn Russian, so we can call it an international language of space :)

15 interesting facts about the English language

I prepared this list for one of my English classes. And then it dawned on me that I can share it with you, too! So here are 15 facts about the English language that I find very interesting. Hope you do, too ;) Rudyard Kipling was fired as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. His dismissal letter said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language. This isn't a kindergarten for amateur writers." No language has more synonyms than English.

Clients vs translators: how do we show that we're honest?

This is a personal post, and I'd really like to hear the opinion of my colleagues about such situations and how to deal with them. My situation is kind of like the one described in Mox's blog . In December a new prospective client wrote to me asking about my availabiility for a new project. When I read the overall description of the project, I got really interested in it. But the client needed to know exactly how much time it would take and how much it would cost. No problem, just send me the text to look through or a part of it so I could get the gist of the style, level of complexity etc. In the reply that person just stated the wordcount, but there was no sample. I thought, maybe they didn't understand me. English is not my native language after all. In my reply, I stated the estimated time and cost based on the client's wordcount, but I repeated the request to see a part of the text. And then the person thanked me and ... disappeared.