There are key figures in history who served as interpreters during changing times that reshaped cultures. One that is well known in the United States is Sacagawea. In Mexico La Malinche was a key figure. Here are four well known interpreters with the year they started interpreting officially.
La Malinche (1519) – As an unwanted child, La Malinche was passed around between Mayan tribes in the Yucatan. As a young woman she was given as a slave to Spanish invaders and eventually claimed by Cortez, to whom she bore a son. She had learned to speak fluent Mayan, Nahuatl, and Spanish, so was able to foil a plot by Aztec chieftains to destroy Cortez’ small army. In 1524 she helped Cortez quell unrest in Honduras and later in Mexico. Cortez acknowledges God and La Malinche as his main partners in conquering Mexico.
Estevanico (1527) – A North African Muslim, Estevanico was enslaved and sold to Spaniard Andres Dorantes, who took him on an expedition to the New World. After much hardship and near death, they made it to Texas, where they were captured by Native Americans for six years. There he learned sign language. Eventually they escaped to Mexico, where the Spaniards began to utilize Estevanico as an interpreter. Posing as a shaman, he helped Viceroy Antonio Mendoza guide numerous expeditions looking for gold.
Tisquantum (1620) – Commonly known as Squanto, this Nauset/Patuxet man was lured aboard a ship in 1615 and transported to Spain to be sold as a slave. He was saved by Spanish friars, who taught him Spanish and Christianity. He then travelled to London where he learned to speak English. English businessmen sent him back to New England to make peace with the Native Americans, where he became a life-saving intermediary between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Confederation.
Sacagawea (1804) – Sacajawea (alt. spelling) was one of five Native wives of Toussaint Charvonneau, a French/Native American trader. Soon after they married he was hired by the Lewis & Clark expedition as a translator – Clark wanted women on board to show it was a peaceful expedition, not a war party. Sacagawea ended up playing a significant role, not only with translating – she spoke Shoshone, Hidatsu, and a little French and English – but also with her practicality and astuteness.
Interpreters (and translators) play significant roles in the shaping of cultures. If you have a culture-shaping event you need help with, be sure to contact Dialog One for an interpreter who meets your needs.