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Translation History of Spain Essay

Spain is a multicultural and multilingual country and the language known as “Spanish” in the general meaning is Castilian which is one of several Romance languages. The other languages spoken throughout Spain is Catalan in the North-east, Galician in the North-west, Basque, which is a non-Romace language spoken around te western French-Spainish border and historical languages of Aragon, Leon and Asturias. In the history, all these languages were spoken alongside the Arabic, Hebrew and Latin and in the middle of this language paradise, translation considerably developed.

From 711 to the 13th century, major parts of Spain were under the Islamic rule. In the spanish history, the term “Reconquista” is an attribution to the years from 718 to 1492, during which the Christians struggled to conquer the islamic lands of Spain and finally completed their mission with the conquest of Granada in 1492. During the Reconquista years, there was a huge translation activity in Spain, sustained between many different languages, mostly thanks to Jews, Conversos who are the Jews converted into Christianity and Mozarabs who are the arabicised Christians living under the Islamic rule.

Islamic Spain had the most developed scientific knowledge of the time because many greek texts translated into arabic in the ninth century were gathered in Spain. These greek texts were translated into Latin through Arabic and therefore Arabic took over the circulation of the scientific texts throughout Europe in the mediavel times. For example Bishop Michael of Tarazona, in the North of Spain sponsored the translation of arabic protoscientific texts into Latin. Peter the Venerable, the french abbot of Cluny organized the first Latin translation of Quran with explanatory documents in 1142.

The Quran translation was carried out by a team of translators including such names as Robert of Kent, Herman of Dalmatia, the Mozarab Peter of Toledo. While the translations from Arabic were transferred from Spain to the northern countries, The christian epics written in Latin or French were coming to Spain in return. Major Latin or French romances were translated after the second half of the 13th century. Translators omitted the anti-chivalrous elements and minimized the adultery in these romances not to face the opposition of the Spanish church.

Toledo school, one of the biggest translation initiative of Spanish history left its mark on 12th and 13th century during the Reconquista years. The translations were mainly carried out around Toledo, but also in the Barcelona and Tarazona regions. Translators of Toledo school mainly focused on the philosophical and scientific achievements of the Greek andA rab world and did translations in the fields of mathemtics, astronomy, medicine and astrology. The ideas of Aristotle was rediscovered with the translations of the work by Averroes and Avicenna.

Europeans became familiar with the Arabic system of numeration, algebra, the Ptolemaic world system and the works of Hippocrates and Galen. Thanks to the circulation of the knowledge, mediavel Europe experienced the “twelfth centrury Renaissance”. Arabic works were actively translated into Latin within the scope of Toledo school. In the 12th century the translation enterprise was undertaked by the Church but in the 13th century Patrons from the spanish court take over the translation activity and the works were translated from Arabic into the vernaculars of Spain rather than Latin.

One of the wellknown patrons of this period is Alfonso. From 1250 on, Arabic scientific text were translated into the Castilian vernacular under the sponsorship of Alphonso X, the king of Castile, Galicia and Leon. Alphonso X contributed the development of Castilian language and translation as a nation building policy. The maintranslators patronized by Alphonso X were Jewish. Thanks to Alfonso X, the status of Jewish translators increased substantially although they often went on working in colloboration with the Christian clerks. Jewish translators mostly did translation in the field of astronomy under the sporsorship of Alfonso X.

If we talk about the translation methods of this period, sometimes we see that translators adapted the source text they worked on, making formal changes according to the Latin conventions of presenting information, omitting certain geographical or historical references to the Arab tradition and verbosity of the Arabic writings. But if we make a differention between the 12th and 13th century, in the 12th century translators supported by the Church mostly did literal translation into Latin with the wide use of transliteration, semantic borrowings of the arabic terminology and abbrevations.

The aim of the translators was not to increase the readership but to make the arabic text available for the scholars. Thats why they only chose to communicate the information. However when we came to 13th century, the translations were done into spanish vernacular under the control of Alfonso X. Translators of Alfonso X seeked to create castilian terminologies and tried to move the translated works beyond the Church an transmit knowledge to wider circles. The translators extended the translations with a glosador to provide exlanatory comments, a capitulator to arrange the work into chapters and an emendador to correct the Castilian.

Alfonso insisted that texts should be easy to understand. After Alfonso X had to leave Castile because of some political reasons, other vernaculars of Spain such as Catalan, Galician and Aragonese had chance to develop. Many classical and Renaissance Latin texts were translated into Catalan. The works of Dante and Boccaccio were also translated from Italian into Catalan. Some other texts were translated into Galician and similarly Aragonese translations were done from greek by a team of translators under Juan Fernandez de Heredia in the 14th century.

These romance languages were also translated among eachother. For example Paulo Orosio translated Aristotle’s Ethics from Aragonese into Castilian and the same text exists in Catalan as well. Towards the end of Reconquista period, the Spanish nobility provoked a civil war in Spain between 1474 and 1479 and the years following this civil war both changed the history of Spain and Spanish tradition of translation. In 1492 with the defeat of Islamic Kingdom of Granada, the christian unity was established to a great extent in Spain.

Around this year, Castile was united with Aragon. The inquisition was established and the jews and other dissident groups such as protestants, jesuits and republicans were expelled from Spain. The geographical explorations started and Spain enlarged its territories and gained power all over the world as a colonial empire. All these developments provided advantages to the idea of Castilian superiorty to the other hispanic languages such as Catalan or Galician. The spanish empire almost gave no place to the internal diversity.

With the rise of Castilian, the translators began to show their confidence in the Castilian vernacular. The translators acted in their translation more freely. For example, in 1558, Fernan Perez de Oliva adapted Sophocles probably from a Latin version to show that the classical ideas could be expressed in Castilian. During the same period, Juan Luis Vives suggested the structures of one language should not be expressed in another and theorized a path between sensus and verba to establish the fidelity. In this period, some translators also went beyond the general translation perception.

For example in 1516 Pero Fernandez de Villegas improved both style and content of the Divina Comedia by Dante. Alonso Fernandez de Madrid amplified the book Enchoridion by Erasmus to about twice its original length, adding expositions, glosses and commentary and omitting some passages. This period, the 16th century also coincided with the rise of Protestantism. lWhen the bible of Erasmus arrived in Spain, it was attacked by the Inquisition violently. The foreign protestant ideas were put forward to be dangerous. Many translators suffered from the Bible translations.

For example Juan de Valdes was sent into exile because of his bible translation. Francisco de Enzinas imprisoned in Brussels in 1543 after dedicating his Castilian New Testament to Emperor Charles V. Juan Perez de Pineda was arrested by the Inquisition in 1557 and Cassiodoro de Reina was burnt in effigy in 1562. Therefore as a measure against the protestant ideas, Spain closed itself off from the secular movements shaking Europe. Thats why in the 16th and 17th centuries, the classical texts were mostly translated from Latin.

The idealogical appropriation came to the forefront in the translations. For example, Pero Sanchez de Viana translated Ovid in accordance with Christian faith. When we came to 17th century Spain, the first part of Cervantes’ Don Quixote the most well-known pseudo translation of the world was published in 1613. This period is matched with the rise of France as a dominant political and cultural power. This situation also had impacts on the translation activity in Europe. The english and german texts were translated into Castilian via French.

Castilian translators carried out the french translation theory “Les belle infideles” in their translations and adapted the source texts to the castilian target cultural norms. In 1836, Mariano Jose Larra stated that “the correct translation of comedies should be to seek equivalences not of words but of the situations, adopting the customs of the country into which one is translating. ”. French influence was also apparent in verse translation. The castilian translators rendered the verse as prose. That’s why Lord Byron entered Castilian from French not as a poet but as a writer of short stories.

During this period, it was so prevalent to read French that Antonio de Capmany wrote a manual for translation from French to Castilian in 1776. However French influence was no all the time welcomed in Spain during this period. French language was actually a big threat to the Castilian purity and conservatizm because of its revolutionary ideals. Tomas de Iriarte, an official translator at the Ministry of State in Madrid was regarded with suspician as he translated Destouches, Voltaire and Moliere for the Spanish stage in the 1770s.

Similarly, as Mariano Luis de Urquijo translated Voltaire with a preface attacking the Inquisition, he entered the diplomatic corps and was sent to London for his own good. In the 20th century, apart from French, other source languages also became visible in the castilian translation activity. Luis Astrana Marin translated Shakespeare’s complete works published in 1929. The spanish dictator, Francisco Franco left his mark on this century. His dictatorhip lasting from 1939 to 1975 imposed various degrees of censorhip to the translation activity in Spain.

For example many movies were censored. The mistresses were changed into aunts or sisters in the dubbing of movies. Moreover, translation into other languages apart from Castilian were illegal for many years, which repressed the multilingual structure of Spain. After Franco period, many previously censored works were translated. The translation into other hispanic languages apart from Castilian became legal and Institutional programs were also set up to develop Spain’s other languages, encouraging translation into them.


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