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Quotes about Language and Translation

Here you will find a selection of quotes about language and translation.

Author Quote
Russell Hoban Language is an archeological vehicle ... the language we speak is a whole palimpsest of human effort and history.
Thomas Hobbs Words are wise men's counters, they do but reckon by them; but they are the money of fools.
Victor Hugo A language does not become fixed. The human intellect is always on the march, or, if you prefer, in movement, and languages with it.
Victor Hugo Human society, the world, and the whole of mankind is to be found in the alphabet.
Italian Proverb Translator, traitor.
Ben Johnson No glass renders a man's form and likeness so true as his speech.
Benjamin Jowett All translation is a compromise - the effort to be literal and the effort to be idiomatic.
J. Lehmann To talk about translation is rather like talking about the glass in front of a picture when it is the picture itself that engrosses our attention
David Lodge Any language is necessarily a finite system applied with different degrees of creativity to an infinite variety of situations, and most of the words and phrases we use are "prefabricated" in the sense that we don’t coin new ones every time we speak.
Kelly Louis Western Europe owes its civilization to translators.
F.C. Lucas Good translations are one of the vital necessities of our time.
Harry Mathews Translation is the paradigm, the exemplar of all writing. It is translation that demonstrates most vividly the yearning for transformation that underlies every act involving speech, that supremely human gift.
Friedrich Nietzsche It is neither the best nor the worst things in a book that defy translation.
Friedrich Nietzsche To use the same words is not a sufficient guarantee of understanding; one must use the same words for the same genus of inward experience; ultimately one must have one's experiences in common.
George Orwell The slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.
Thomas Paine Human language is local and changeable, and is therefore incapable of being used as the means of unchangeable and universal information.
Boris Paternak As far as modern writing is concerned, it is rarely rewarding to translate it, although it might be easy. Translation is very much like copying paintings.
Steven Pinker The linguistic clumsiness of tourists and students might be the price we pay for the linguistic genius we displayed as babies, just as the decrepitude of age in the price we pay for the vigor of youth.
Plato A written discourse on any subject is bound to contain much that is fanciful.
Plato In good speaking, should not the mind of the speaker know the truth of the matter about which he is to speak?

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