Chaucer’s Intercultural Translations and How Translation Services Can Help make us more Cosmopolitan
Some of the first translations into the English language were done by Chaucer who adapted works written by Giovanni Boccaccio while writing A Knight’s Tale and Troilus and Criseyde. He also started a translation of Roman de la Rose, a French work, and the oevre of Boethius, which was in Latin. Obviously, he was a very well read man to be able to translate and adapt these works.
Chaucer was born to a merchant, but his parents were doing so well that it wasn’t necessary for him to become a merchant too. Instead, he became a page to the Countess of Ullster and began a diplomatic career which took him to many places. He became a well-respected man in this field, and he could have chosen to just endorse the power held by the aristocracy in his day (he was born in the early 1340s).
However, Chaucer was determined to look beyond the life that he had the privilege to lead, and he decided to do this via translation and other literary works. At this time, the official language of the state was French, and the official language of the church was Latin. Rather than only writing in these two languages as many writers of his day chose to do, Chaucer decided to write in and translate into English which was considered beneath the upper classes. English was a language only spoken by the common people. By translating into English, Chaucer recognized the beauty of this vernacular language and was one of many responsible for making it as widely spoken as it is today.
The example of Chaucer shows how a translator can really change the world. By taking tales that were only accessible to those who spoke French, Italian and Latin and translating them into English, Chaucer gave people the opportunity to learn about things from far off lands and to become more cosmopolitan. Through his travels, he carried knowledge from one place to another and this is the very definition of translation which means “to carry across” in the original Latin.
Translators help to make the world a smaller place and bring about communication between groups who couldn’t have communicated before. And hopefully, the result of this communication is better understanding and greater harmony.
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