The Role of Translators During Wartime

Wartime was terrifying, and the first thing someone thinks about when hearing about war is either the weapons or the masses slaughtering each other. As such, many omit the importance of the translator. After all, how would the countries at war communicate?

Although nowadays translators are very needed for multiple tasks, they had just as an important role as they do now. While it might be hard to imagine, translators have a history, and they’ve taken part in some of the most known wars to mankind. Here are some of the events with translators partaking in them.

  1. The Spanish Conquest of the Aztecs

Translators have played an important role during the Spanish conquest in 1519. Hernan Cortes has landed in Mexico with his Spanish forces but was overwhelmed when faced with a lot of different languages. Because of that, he asked a local woman for help. Malintzin, on her name, has proved to be very useful to him. She was able to learn Spanish, and translate between is, Nahuatl and Chontal Maya, and even helped Cortez ally himself with other groups. As a result, she was able to warn the conquistador about a planned assassination attempt and became one of the things that helped him defeat the Aztecs.

  1. World War I

World War I was so big that it only makes sense translators were a necessity. One of the reasons was the lack of resources. Basically, when the forces were low with resources, Chinese translators and laborers were what was helping them regain their power and keep going.

As every front has suffered many losses, China took the initiative and brought reinforcements. As such, Chinese people were able to bring supplies of water to the soldiers, as well as repairing their tanks.

Translators were so needed during wartime because they were the ones able to coordinate the armies of both sides by translating every information. Besides, they could also sustain near-dead languages, as they could be used to confuse enemies through simple codes. This is why translators were given such a high role during the event.

  1. The Treaty Between New Zealand and Britain

Translators might be dating from the earliest ages, but that doesn’t mean all of them were able to do an impeccable job. After all, mistakes are bound to happen, regardless of your experience.

This is proven by this event that had results which are being worked out to this day. Back in 1840, the British government agreed to sign a treaty with New Zealand’s Maori chiefs. What the chiefs wanted was protection against the sailors, traders or lawless convicts who were terrorizing their villages. The treaty was signed, but there was a problem occurring from the translation.

Basically, the treaty had two versions – an English and a Maori one. While the latter was saying the Maori people would still be able to rule themselves while getting protection, the English one was saying the opposite. This is why the matter has not yet been solved.

  1. World War II

Translators had a big impact on WW2 as well. They were working to break the Lorenz cipher which was helping the Nazi army and regime communicate. As a result of their work, they were able to identify the location of the German Army Divisions before the landings of D-Day.

In addition, translators were the ones making Japan surrender. Before the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were dropped, the premier was asked by reporters about how he felt about the surrender request. He replied with “no comment”, meaning they didn’t yet consider the request, but the translation went by “not worthy of comment”. Consequently, the first bomb was dropped days later.

Final Thoughts

Before you end up working for one of the top Russian translation services, it’s important to know how essential you are and why you must do your best when translating. Hopefully, these historical events including translators were inspirational enough to make you do your best.

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