Swoop down on AI before it does on you

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Translating has always been a human activity, objective, and problem to enable the circulation of ideas, techniques, knowledge, ideologies, etc. Buddhism alleviated the problem by inventing a language, Pāli, that had no writing system and thus could be written with all writing systems, at least theoretically. Hinduism used Sanskrit, just the same as Tibetan Buddhists, at least in some basic religious activities. Greece and their Hellenistic empire with Alexander used standard Greek at the time to communicate in the whole empire. Then the Romans came and imposed Latin as the communication language. In these two cases translating became an immediate target, translating everything from the periphery into Latin for Rome to deal with it, and everything from the Roman center into peripheral languages for everyone to understand in the periphery. Chinese imposed the Mandarin writing system to all dialects of China and even to languages beyond that Chinese spectrum of dialects. The special case of Vietnam is interesting since the French colonial power enabled the Vietnamese to drop the Chinese writing system that was badly adapted to Vietnamese and replace it with a Latinized alphabet with fervent support from all intellectuals and endorsement from Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese Communists.

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Africa was mostly an oral continent except for the Arabic consonantal writing system used by the Muslim population when Islam spread into Black Africa. The various African languages started being written because the colonial powers imposed some religious, mostly Catholic, Protestant or Anglican, predication and proselytism built on the Bible, Old and New Testaments, that have had a very interesting history from old Biblical Hebrew to Latin and only Latin in the Western Christian churches, to Greek in the Eastern Christian Orthodox churches, to the Cyrillic alphabet derived from the Glagolitic script in the Bulgarian empire of the Bulgarian Tsar Simeon I the Great in the 9th century AD (following the cultural and political course of his father Boris I in the same period as Charlemagne was imposing the first religious reform that was to bring feudalism in Europe). And starting in the 15th century, systematic translation into the vernacular languages and the printing of these translations.

Written by

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, PhD in Germanic Linguistics (University Lille III) and ESP Teaching (University Bordeaux II) has been teaching all types of ESP

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