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10 of the Best Quotes for Language Translators


language translatorI recently read a blog post by one of my favorite bloggers, Catherine Christakis. In this particular post, she included a collection of her favorite inspirational quotes for language translators. Over the past couple of years, I too have been collecting my favorite translation quotes and thought I’d share 10 of them.

10 of the Best Quotes for Language Translators

  • “So many people consider their work a daily punishment. Whereas I love my work as a translator. Translation is a journey over a sea from one shore to the other. Sometimes I think of myself as a smuggler: I cross the frontier of language with my booty of words, ideas, images, and metaphors.”
    Amara Lakhous

  • "I do not hesitate to read … all good books in translations. What is really best in any book is translatable—any real insight or broad human sentiment."
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • “Writers make national literature, while translators make universal literature.”
    José Saramago
  • “It is better to have read a great work of another culture in translation than never to have read it at all.”
    ― Henry Gratton Doyle

  • “Translation is a two-edged instrument: it has the special purpose of demonstrating the learner's knowledge of the foreign language, either as a form of control or to exercise his intelligence in order to develop his competence.”
    Peter Newmark

  • “It is hard indeed to notice anything for which the languages available to us have no description.”

    Alan Wilson Watts
  • "Translators are the shadow heroes of literature, the often forgotten instruments that make it possible for different cultures to talk to one another, who have enabled us to understand that we all, from every part of the world, live in one world.”
    Paul Auster
  • “If laughter came in paste format you could squeeze out of a tube, I’ll bet nine out of ten dentists would recommend comedy before bed. The tenth doctor, having just read Tolstoy as deliberately mistranslated by Dora J. Arod, would probably recommend reading Russian literature before bed.”
    Jarod Kintz

  • The poet moves from life to language, the translator moves from language to life; both, like the immigrant, try to identify the invisible, what's between the lines, the mysterious implications.”
    Anne Michaels

  • "Say what we may of the inadequacy of translation, yet the work is and will always be one of the weightiest and worthiest undertakings in the general concerns of the world."
    J. W. Goethe
Download our exclusive guide: Translation and the Empathetic Imagination


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