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  • Writer's pictureYelena McCafferty

“Unknown” translators and interpreters

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

Every year on 30th September translators and interpreters worldwide celebrate their professional day – International Translation Day. In our industry we know who some of our stars are - colleagues who inspire us and who we could all learn from.

There are, however, a few famous people who did translation or interpreting in the past but that’s not what we usually know them for!

Professional football manager Jose Mourinho, for example, used to be an interpreter for Sir Bobby Robson, an English footballer and football manager.

Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov became world famous for his novel Lolita. But few of us know it was originally written by him in English. He then translated it into Russian. He commented: "I imagined that in some distant future somebody might produce a Russian version of Lolita. I trained my inner telescope upon that particular point in the distant future and I saw that every paragraph, pockmarked as it is with pitfalls, could lend itself to hideous mistranslation. In the hands of a harmful drudge, the Russian version of Lolita would be entirely degraded and botched by vulgar paraphrases or blunders. So I decided to translate it myself."

Hannelore Kohl, the first wife of Helmut Kohl of 41 years, was a trained interpreter of English and French. They do say "behind every great man there is a great woman"!

Catherine the Great (1729 - 1796), the Russian empress, was an early translator of Shakespeare into Russian.

But translation is not a thing of the past for royals! Margrethe II of Denmark is an accomplished translator and is said to have participated in the Danish translation of The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien.

Can you add any other celebrities to this list?

Most royals speak a number of languages fluently
Margrethe II of Denmark is an accomplished translator

[Tip: Want to know more about our award-winning Russian translation service? Read our answers to frequently asked questions here.]


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