FAMOUS INTERPRETERS IN ASIAN HISTORY

Every region of the world has its momentous times in history whose resolution has been shaped by interpreters. In Asia, the Chinese had problems with the Russians, resisted Christianity, and fought to control European/Asian trade. Here are interpreters who helped resolve those issues.

Pereira & Gerbillon (late 1600s)

In the 1600s Jesuit missionaries from all over Europe began to migrate to China. At the same time, Russian Cossacks had begun infiltrating its northern borders and subjugating Siberian tribes that paid tribute to China. The Kangxi emperor chose Portuguese Jesuit Thomas Pereira to help him negotiate with the Russians, and Pereira chose French Jesuit Jean-Francois Gerbillon to work with him as an interpreter team. Together they stopped the Russians from tricking the emperor in the subsequent treaty they worked out in Latin. Chinese Prince Songgotu credits the Jesuits for the end of war with Russia.

Constantine Phaulkon (late 1600s)

Phaulkon was the son of a Greek innkeeper who traveled to Siam (Thailand) in 1678 with English merchants. He first worked as an interpreter for the British East India Company, then for the Siamese civil administration. He impressed the Siamese court with the way he dealt with English debts and reducing costs of the Persian embassy. King Narai put him in an advisory role that let him control the royal treasury without creating political enemies. This essentially made Phaulkon the second most powerful man in Siam.

Karl Gutzlaff (1830s and ’40s)

Gutzlaff was also a missionary in Siam (Thailand), having migrated from Holland, where his father was a tailor. In Siam he learned Thai and the Fujian dialect of China, then traveled to other Asian islands and learned their languages. In 1834 he became an interpreter and secretary for the East India Company in Guangzhou. He translated Bible texts into Japanese and Thai. As time went on he became the victim of trickery by opium smugglers, which ruined his career, but eventually was acknowledged as an honest negotiator who respected Chinese culture.

Lin Yutang (early 1900s)

A well-known Chinese writer and scholar, Lin Yutang translated texts and interpreted Chinese to English. He introduced the Western concept of humor to China, Chinese culture to the United States, and developed the first Chinese-American dictionary. He also invented the first Chinese typewriter, which later played a key role in Cold War research.

In these modern times interpreters from Dialog One make a difference. Contact us if you need an interpreter you can trust.