By Paula Fallas Sánchez - Student of English Teaching and Translation
Literary critic George Steiner once said: “Without translation, we would be living in provinces bordering silence”. Steiner is trying to show how vital translation is to our intertwined world. Translation has affected every aspect of the world and science and technology are no exceptions. We have been able to advance so much in science and technology because translation allows communication with wider ranges of clients as well as enables the spread of information towards a more educated society.
The translation of scientific and technical discoveries makes it so that a larger population is able to be informed on these advances. Translating textbooks, journals, reports, articles, and other sources of information allow multiple regions to have access to the same new information that would then build toward a more educated population, not just of future scientists and technicians, but also in general. The translation of books like these is so important that UNESCO has launched a book translation campaign in order to supply reading materials in over 70 languages to children whose academic life has been affected by the pandemic (UNESCO, 2020). Without translation, each language would have to rely solely on their own people for any information to be accessible to them instead of our education being a worldwide contribution.
Even internal matters in companies could be completely ruined due to a lack of translation. What use is a new technological device for a Spanish speaker if the phone and the instructions are all set in Russian? Without translation, companies are blocked from a larger number of customers that could then finance more future projects (Von Belvard, 2010). Unsurprisingly, translation mishaps have even led to failure to even produce in companies. More than once companies have ordered supplies from other countries and then been unable to use them due to missing translations which could then cause a slow in production (Von Belvard, 2010). This shows that translation is not only important in the selling of products, but also in the making of products.
Some might wonder just how much technical or scientific advances can be largely attributed to access to translations. The answer is very where in our scientific and technical history. An example of this is the atom model. John Dalton, and English scientist made his model in 1808, and it was largely accepted until JJ Thompson, another English scientist, made a newer model in 1897, followed by Ernest Rutherford in 1911 (Rodríguez & Niaz, 2004). All of these men were English speakers. However, their next two processors were not. Neil Bohr was a Danish scientist who made his model in 1913 followed by Austrian Erwin Schrödinger in 1926 and James Chadwick in 1932 (Rodríguez & Niaz, 2004). These scientists learned from each other’s research and built off it to create their model until we reach the model we have now. If it were not for the translation availability of each other’s work, the discovery would have taken a lot longer.
For thousands of years, translation has been a vital part of our societal development. This importance has not diminished with time, but instead has greatly increased now that we are in much more contact with other countries than ever before. Instead of living isolated from each other, translation has allowed our societies to advance greatly in scientific and technical fields. Like George Steiner alluded to in his quote, we are not living in silence. Instead, we are co-living in shared information that will help us help each other through fluent communication.