Forget "Professional Interpreter". Try Being a Dragoman
"In the History of Interpreting, a Dragoman was a man who acted as guide and interpreter in countries where Arabic, Turkish, or Persian was spoken". – Oxford Dictionary
Today professionals who relay information from one language to another, either verbally or written, are known as interpreters or translators. Centuries ago in the Ottoman Empire they were Dragomans.
Like modern day equivalents, Dragoman interpreters had to be fluent in multiple languages and cultural variances in behavior - mainly those of the Ottomans and those of the West (Muslim vs. Western ideologies). They interpreted for trade and diplomatic reasons. The Dragomans of the Sultan’s Imperial Divan in Turkey held high positions in the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman court) and society, seeing as most diplomatic conversation hinged on their ability to translate. The position involved interpreting meetings with foreign envoys, translating messages sent to the sultan, and taking part in foreign delegations. There is evidence to suggest in the history of interpreting - that someone working as an interpreter in the empire would have led a very wealthy life.
Western powers also required ancient translators for embassies in the Ottoman Empire. They originally relied on locals in the empire, but because of the amount of influence and knowledge the Dragoman had in social and political settings they were often distrusted. Western powers eventually began training their own Dragomans. They studied and lived in embassies abroad and did much of the same work that is done today: translated documents, accompanied diplomats, and translated multilingual meetings.
In the 1500s language schools were created and children, known as “language children”, were sent at a young age to study linguistics. In France, the aspiring Dragomans were required to translate texts written in Turkish, Arabic, and Persian.
Their influence was physically preserved by a building for the Dragomanate in the Palais de France until the outbreak of WWI. Today one can still find interpreters and translators moving in the highest spheres of political and social circles. Although they might not hold exactly the same sway as the Dragomans, their job to facilitate communication between cultures is nonetheless just as imperative to global relations.
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