Interpreting has been in existence
ever since man has used the spoken word. It has therefore always
played a vital role in the relationships between people of different
origins since the beginning of mankind. However, there is a lack
of hard evidence pinpointing the time of the creation of interpreting
due to the fact that interpreting, unlike written translations,
leaves behind no written proof. The first written proof of interpreting
dates back to 3000 BC, at which time the Ancient Egyptians had a
hieroglyphic signifying "interpreter".
The next widely known use of interpreting
occurred in Ancient Greece and Rome. For both the Ancient Greeks
and Romans, learning the language of the people that they conquered
was considered very undignified. Therefore, slaves, prisoners and
ethnic hybrids were forced to learn multiple languages and interpret
for the nobility. Furthermore, during this era and up until the
17th century, Latin was the lingua franca, or the language of diplomacy,
in Europe, and therefore all nations had to have some citizens who
spoke Latin in order to carry on diplomatic relations.
Throughout the centuries, interpreting
became more and more widely spread due to a number of factors. One
such factor is religion. The people of many different religions
throughout history have journeyed into international territories
in order to share and teach their beliefs. For example, in the 7th
and 8th centuries AD, many Arabs were in West Africa in order to
trade. Along with commerce, however, the Arabs introduced Islam
to the Africans, and Arabic, the language of the Koran, became ever
more important. Interpreters assisted in spreading the word of the
Koran to the local villages. Another religion that has always yearned
to expand its borders is Christianity. In 1253, William of Rubruck
was sent by Louis IX on an expedition into Asia accompanied by interpreters.
This was one of the very first large-scale pure mission trips; William's
sole purpose was to spread the word of God.
Another factor that played a large
role in the advancement of interpreting was the Age of Exploration.
With so many expeditions to explore new lands, people were bound
to come across others who spoke a different language. One of the
most famous interpreters in history came out of the Age of Exploration,
specifically the early 16th century. This interpreter was of Mexican
descent, and served Cortés on his crusades. Her name was
Doña Marina, also known as "la Malinche." La Malinche
serves as good example of the feelings held toward interpreters
in the Age of Exploration. Because the interpreters that helped
the conquerors were often of native descent, their own people often
felt that they were traitors, regardless of the circumstance and
whether or not they were interpreting voluntarily. On the other
hand, however, these people served as a connection between the native
population and the explorers. The explorers therefore treasured
these go-betweens. Furthermore, interpreters enabled many pacts
and treaties to occur that otherwise would not have been possible;
they have played a large role in the formation of the world that
we know today.
The next main advances in interpreting
came more recently, in the 20th century. In particular, at the International
Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in 1927, simultaneous interpreting
was used for the very first time. However, following the conference
(with a few exceptions) the method of simultaneous interpreting
was too costly and complicated to use during WWII, so it was not
put into use on a large scale until 1945, in the Nuremberg war crimes
trial. This event marked the introduction of simultaneous interpreting
into nearly every meeting, conference and trial from then on. In
fact, shortly after the trial ended, in 1947, the United Nations'
Resolution 152 established simultaneous interpreting as a permanent
service for the UN.
The term community interpreting
was coined in the 1970s in Australia, from which it spread to Europe
and eventually the US. Community interpreting was created to describe
interpreting in institutional settings of a given society in which
public service providers and individual clients do not speak the
same language. Although the term is more recent, community interpreting
traces back to the beginning of interpreting. In many of the aforementioned
events, such as the missionary trips, the interpreters used would
nowadays be considered community interpreters.
For years, Australia remained the
prime active country in the development of community interpreting
as we currently know it. After WWII, due to the influx of immigrants,
the government shifted towards multilingualism to accommodate the
'new Australians.' Most of the community interpreting was ad hoc
until 1973 when a telephone interpreter service was created, at
which point the need for interpreting schools and training arose.
As interest in interpreting rose, it spread overseas, and in 1978
the US Court Interpreters Act boosted the professional development
in the field of court interpreting by requiring that interpreters
take further education as offered by professional bodies or universities.
Since the 1970s, the need for community interpreters has skyrocketed,
causing steps towards more thorough and uniform education and certification.
For example, in 1995 the first international conference on "Interpreters
in the Community" was held at Geneva Park near Toronto. Also,
in 1997 the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and
Interpreters Ltd (NAATI) was created in Australia in order to set
and maintain high national standards in the fields of translation
Sweden is another country that has
aided the development and growth of community interpreting. As in
Australia, the growth of community interpreting in Sweden was inspired
by the increased immigration after WWII. In Sweden, interpreter
service in court is an immigrant's right according to the Code of
Judicial Procedure. The State Officials Act furthered these rights,
extending the interpreter obligation to immigrant interaction with
all public officials. Furthermore, interpreting training in Sweden
has been in existence since 1968. In the last five years, 103 languages
have been present in interpreter training courses. The nation has
also created a set of standards for "authorized" interpreters;
this authorization process involves examinations given by a sector
of the National Agency for Lands and Funds.
Based on the progress and developments
that have been made in the last forty years, community interpreting
is a rapidly growing field that only has room to develop in a world
in which countries, cities and towns are becoming increasingly multilingual.
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