THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA BROUGHT INTERPRETING OUT OF THE MIDDLE AGES
Simultaneous interpreting is a child of the post-war period, with it being first used as we recognise it today at the Nuremburg War Trials. However, one of the oldest known references to its use dates to the discovery of America in the 15th century, at the start of the Modern Age.
After discovering America, Christopher Columbus also discovered his Arabian and Hebrew interpreters were of little use in communicating with the natives. He then decided to capture some natives and to teach them Spanish so they could act as interpreters during the ensuing expedition. The same happened with Spaniards captured by natives, who were taught their languages and customs and who then served as interpreters. Prior to this they used gesture and mime when words failed – and before the interpreter existed.
This was followed by 500 years of academic learning and, particularly recently, of globalisation and technical improvements.
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