Columbus Day & Interpreters!

Today we celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. But, did you know that,  like many other important historical events, interpreters played a vital role?

In 1492, Christopher Columbus’s landing in the Bahamas changed the world forever. It helped establish trade routes between North America and Europe and ushered in a new age of voyage and discovery. Columbus brought Luis De Torres, an interpreter, with him during his first voyage. De Torres spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Latin, and some Arabic. Because he expected to encounter Asians, Columbus felt De Torres’s proficiency in Hebrew and Aramaic would be particularly useful. However, De Torres’s proficiency in these languages was of little use in communicating with the natives, who spoke an entirely different language. Because of this, Columbus had to rely on indigenous interpreters.

At the end of his first voyage, Columbus brought back native Indians with him to Spain, where they were taught Spanish so they could be used as interpreters in subsequent trips. Upon returning to the New World, the main task of these interpreters was to dissuade Indians from resistance. This, in turn, helped the Spanish spread their influence and consolidate their rule in the Americas.

Thus, if it were not for interpreters, Columbus’s voyage to the New World would have been fruitless and the world we know today would be a completely different place!

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