The history of interpreting

Interpreting is as ancient as the creation of languages, and its existence has been known for 100,000 years. There are indications of the practice of interpreting as far back as Ancient Egypt, and also subsequently in Greece and Rome. Nevertheless, summarising, very little is known of the history of interpreting in general.

One famous figure, already known to some, but who is not usually associated with this field, is Marina, lover and translator of Hernán Cortés. The Spanish conquistador conquered Mexico and always used Marina's language skills to communicate with the natives. Marina is often depicted as a traitor who was said to have deceived the native Mexicans. She is enshrouded in numerous legends and myths.

By way of example, the need for interpreters is evident in the European diplomatic corps.

The so-called trade languages have always existed, and were used in the meetings of different heads of state and kings. Up until the First World War, French was used for bilateral meetings with the help of interpreters and translators into the respective national languages. 

Another example of the beginnings of interpreting is the multilingual children who were exchanged between European and Eastern countries, and who grew up in the other country to learn the language. They were then used in the court as interpreters.

It was not until the 20th Century that the profession of the interpreter began to develop into what we know today. Simultaneous interpreting is the most modern form, while whispered interpreting (or chuchotage) is the oldest and most classic. The first large-scale use of simultaneous interpreters was at the Nuremberg trials, which is regarded as the birth of modern simultaneous interpreting.

Nowadays, interpreters are used in most large congresses and conferences, particularly when English cannot be used as the common language.