Top 10 Most Fascinating Translation Facts
Throughout history, language has shaped the way we see the world. Through translation, language can shape the way different cultures see each other, consume entertainment, become more knowledgeable, and maintain global communication.
Translation is one of the most precious resources we have as a society for becoming integrated and staying connected, and this would all be impossible without the work of translators.
We’ve compiled a list of the most fascinating facts from the world of language and translation.
1. The Most Translated Text in History
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Holy Bible takes the crown for the most translated – and widely sold – text in recorded history. It has been translated into more than 2000 languages and dialects since it was first written.
The very first translation of the Bible was during 250 BC, from Hebrew into Greek, translated by a Jewish scholar named Aquila. This version became the standard script for Greek-speaking Jews until the birth of Jesus Christ. This is also regarded by some historians as the first translated text in Western civilisation.
Rather than a single book, the Bible is actually a collection of books, with 66 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament, originally written by around 40 people over the course of 1500 years.
2. The Easiest Language to Translate
Spanish has often been cited as the easiest language to learn the world over. This is largely due to the fact that it is a phonetic language, meaning the words are mostly pronounced as they are spelled, so the teaching and learning process is fairly straightforward.
3. The Song Sung in the Most Languages by One Artist
Indian artist Dr Kesiraju Srinivas, otherwise known as Ghazal Srinivas, recorded a song titled ‘Golden Dreams of Gandhiji’ in a staggering 125 different languages during 2009, releasing it as part of a double CD album called ‘The Path of Mahatma Gandhi’.
The translated languages span Amharic, Bengali, Croatian, Danish, Esperanto, Fijian, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Kashmiri, Langmai, Malay, Nepali, Oromifa, Polish, Russian, Sanskrit, Tagalog, Uzbek, Vietnamese, Wolof, and Zulu.
4. The Oldest Language in the World
The oldest language still in use today is widely regarded as Tamil, a surviving classical Dravidian language that is over 5000 years old. Tamil’s first grammar book is thought to have been written in 3000 BC. It is still widely used, and is even one of Singapore’s official languages.
5. The Person Who Speaks the Most Languages
The world’s leading polyglot is Canadian-born Powell Janulus, who entered the Guinness World Records in 1985 for being fluent in 42 languages.
To earn this accolade, he was required to pass a two-hour conversational fluency test with a native speaker of all 42 of these languages, including the Romance, Slavic, Nordic, East Asain, German, Indo-Aryan, Wendish, Lusatian, Kashubian, Persian, Finnish, Turkish, Greek, and Croatian languages.
6. The Most Translated Website
Currently, the website that holds the title of most translated site in the world is jw.org – the official page of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This essentially means that this website has the most languages available that can be chosen by users in its interface.
The site spans more than 1030 languages, including indigenous ones. When you consider that the second most translated site is Wikipedia, spanning just 300 languages, this fact seems even more staggering.
7. There Are Four Historical Periods of Translation
Throughout the long and complex history of translation, there are four significant periods we can divide events into:
- The first period starts with Cicero and Horace’s works in translation, the former being Rome’s greatest orator and most famous writer on translation, who lived from 106-43 BC, and the latter the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus, who lived from 65-8 BC. The end of this era was marked by Alexander F. Tyler’s ‘Essay on the Principles of Translation, published in 1791.
- This led onto the second period which lasted until 1946, when translator of the Bible Valery Larbaud published their exploration of translation, entitled ‘Sous L’invocation de Saint Jérôme’.
- The third period lasted just two decades, ending during 1960 when the first papers on machine translation were published.
- Still ongoing today, the fourth period began during the 1960s.
8. Translation is a $51.6 Billion Industry
Although recent years have seen multiple markets experience chaos and financial disruption amidst the pandemic, the translation industry is one of the few to have prospered. According to Statista, the market for the global language service industry was valued at $51.6 billion during 2021, a considerable increase from 2019 when it was valued at around $48 billion.
Prior to this, the industry had actually seen its market value double over the course of a decade, from 2009 to 2019. With our ever-increasing digitisation of media, entertainment, and marketing, translation services as a resource have become more of a necessity than ever before, helping businesses to reach a global audience and expand their consumer market across a wider demographic. Translation’s market value is only set to increase beyond 2022.
9. The Most Translated Author
The number one most translated author of all time is Agatha Christie, followed by Jules Verne and William Shakespeare. Christie currently holds a total of 7236 translations for her works, an increase of over 2000 when compared to Verne at second place.
10. There Are 1700 Languages Spoken Worldwide
More than 1700 languages are currently used around the world, although some are spoken more than others. If you count both native and non-native speakers, English is the largest language the world over, but if you’re just looking at native speakers, Mandarin takes first place.
Language is constantly evolving and expanding, but with the advancements of modern life and the mass globalisation of the English language, some languages are unfortunately dying out.
At Brightlines, we’re dedicated to preserving the sanctity of language with our quality translation and localisation services. Get in touch today to find out more about how we can help you boost your business and reach a global audience.