Heroes of Translation


Tully - Heroes of Translation

Tully - Heroes of Translation

The translator's translator


Marcus Tullius Cicero (Tully) 106 BC - 43 BC


Tully, better known outside Britain as 'Cicero', has had an enduring influence on the art of translation and the approach of translators. Politician, linguist, lawyer and philosopher, Tully created a new philosophical vocabulary coining words such as 'humanitas', 'qualitas', 'quantitas', and 'essentia' in the process.


A passionate republican in an age of despots, Tully fell foul of Mark Anthony and was declared an 'enemy of the state'. He was murdered in 43 BC.


"I did not consider it necessary to give a word for word translation, but I have preserved the character and energy of the language throughout."


Wycliffe - Heroes of Translation

Wycliffe - Heroes of Translation

The radical translator 


John Wycliffe 1328 - 1384 


Wycliffe was a scholar, a theologian and early dissenter in the Roman Catholic Church. He undertook the first translation of the Holy Bible into English from Latin. This challenged the church's monopoly on access to God and was met with a furious response from church leaders.


Believing his source text to be the very word of God, Wycliffe produced a literal word-for-word translation and in the process added a huge number of words to the English word hoard. 'Humanity', 'puberty', 'frying pan' and 'birthday' all owe their origins to Wycliffe's Bible.


For at least 150 years Wycliffe's Bible was the only form in which the people of Britain could read the articles of their faith in their own language.


"My Bible is for the government of the people, by the people and for the people."


Dryden - Heroes of Translation

Dryden - Heroes of Translation

The poet, translating poetry 


John Dryden 1631 - 1700 


Poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright Dryden dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such an extent that the period came to be known in literary circles as the 'Age of Dryden'. He was made Poet Laureate in 1667.


In his translation of the poetic works of Virgil Dryden sought "words such as he would probably have written if he were living and an Englishman". It is for this notion of 'equivalence' as the central concept of translation, that Dryden joins the ranks of Heroes of Translation. A notion as adequate as any that had been proposed since Tully (Ciero), in Ancient Rome, cautioned against translating 'word for word'.


The publication of the translation of Virgil was a national event and brought Dryden the enormous sum of ??1,400.


"Since what is beautiful in one language is often barbarous, nay sometimes nonsense, in another, it would be unreasonable to limit a translator to the narrow compass of his author's words."


Nida - Heroes of Translation

Nida - Heroes of Translation

The modern theorist


Eugene Nida 1914 - 2011


Born in the United States, Nida began his career as a linguist before emerging as a pioneer in the fields of translation theory and linguists.


Nida's most notable contribution to translation theory was the notion of Functional Equivalence. That is, where the translator conveys the thought expressed in a source test, even at the expense of literalness, word order, grammatical voice etc. The intention is that a translation should also 'read well'. His theory accepts that there can never be a 'true' and exact translation in terms of words but aims to transmit 'meaning' in the fullest sense.


In his work with the American Bible Society Nida was responsible for cross-denominational Bible translations across the globe, in accordance with the principles of Functional Equivalence.


"Every part of the paragraph should be translated with the structure of the whole being carefully considered, since all must fit together to form a unit."


Heroes of Translation

Heroes of Translation  

Over the next few weeks we will be telling you all about our Heroes of Translation.


Linguists, scholars and pioneers have all played a role in defining translation theory and have brought us to where we are today.


There are many people who have influenced us and our heroes are:


Tully, Wycliffe, Dryden and Nida


We take a look at those who throughout history have helped us to better communicate in our modern multi-lingual. multi-cultrual world.


"Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture."


Anthony Burgess, Author of A Clockwork Orange


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