Top 10 Famous Translators of All Time

Translators are the unsung heroes of any society. These hardworking individuals ensure that an individual from one part of the world can understand another individual from a completely different culture. In this article, we list some famous translators from various fields and their significant contributions to society through their work as translators. They’ve made it to our list of top 10 famous translators because of their dedication to languages, and ability to give new life to books that would otherwise remain locked up in libraries or closed away in vaults. Except for rare cases such as bilingual individuals who can fluently speak more than one language, the need for professional translation services is essential in our modern society. This is especially true if you’re planning on traveling abroad or doing business with people who don’t share your native tongue. Thankfully, there are plenty of passionate people out there who are willing to give up their free time to make the lives of others a little bit easier. Here is our list of top 10 famous translators:


#1 St. Jerome


St. Jerome is widely considered to be the father of translation. This is due to the fact that he was one of the first people to ever translate the Bible into Latin, the language that was most commonly spoken at the time. Jerome completed his translation of the Bible in the year 397 CE. He was also the first person in recorded history to translate the works of the famous Roman playwright, Terence. Jerome was a scholar and loved to study. He was fluent in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, as well as several other languages. He is widely believed to have been very studious and reclusive in his youth. Jerome was also a man of a very spiritual and religious nature. His translation of the Bible is still widely used today, especially in the Western Christian churches. The most famous version of Jerome’s translation is the Vulgate.

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#2 Constance Garnett


Constance Garnett was a British translator who mainly specialized in translating Russian literature into English. She was one of the most prolific translators of the early 20th century, translating over 50 books from Russian into English. Amongst the most famous translations that she completed were those of the works of Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy. Garnett became interested in Russian literature in her youth and started to translate Russian literature into English when she was in her 30s. Her most famous and significant translation was that of the works of Leo Tolstoy. She translated many of his works including “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina”. Her translations of Tolstoy’s works have been criticized for being less than accurate and more sentimental than the original Russian works. Despite this, her translations are still incredibly popular and are considered to have had a significant influence on the English-speaking peoples’ view of Russian culture.


#3 Jorge Luis Borges


Jorge Luis Borges was a prolific Argentine writer and translator. Borges is best known for his short stories and poetry that often contained mystical and metaphysical elements. His works are often compared to those of Franz Kafka or the Arabian Nights. Borges was also a significant translator during his life. Some of the most notable translations that he completed included the works of William Shakespeare, John Bunyan, and the poetic works of the Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen. One of the most famous of Borges’s translations is his version of the works of William Shakespeare. His versions of Shakespeare’s plays are considered to be more true to the original than the versions that had been previously translated into Spanish. Borges’s versions of Shakespeare’s works are still considered to be the most accurate and authentic among Spanish-speaking peoples.


#4 Edward George Seidensticker


Edward George Seidensticker was an American scholar who specialized in translating Japanese literature. He is widely considered to be one of the foremost translators of Japanese literature into English. Seidensticker is credited with being the first person to translate the works of the famous Japanese novelist, Yasunari Kawabata, into English. He also translated works by other notable Japanese authors such as Dazai Osamu and Mishima Yukio. Seidensticker was a prolific author and translator who spent most of his life living in Japan. He was fluent in both, English and Japanese. He even taught English at the University of Tokyo. Seidensticker’s translations of Japanese novels are considered to be very accurate. However, they are often criticized for being overly literal and almost dull in their portrayal of the original Japanese texts.

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#5 Gregory Rabassa


Gregory Rabassa is a well-renowned American translator who mainly focused on translating works of South American literature into English. He is best known for his translation of the works of the famous Brazilian novelist, João Guimaraes-Barreto, whom he also introduced to an English-speaking audience. Rabassa has translated a wide variety of works including novels, short stories, and nonfiction. His translation of Gabriel García Márquez’s novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, is particularly famous. Rabassa’s translation of this novel is considered to be very true to the original Spanish work and has been very successful in both, commercial and critical terms. His translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude is still the best-selling translation of a novel in the Spanish-speaking world and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide.


#6 Sir Richard Burton


Sir Richard Burton was an English explorer and scholar who translated numerous works from Arabian and Indian languages into English. Burton was a very eccentric and adventurous man. He is perhaps best known for his travels to the Middle East, where he disguised himself as a Muslim in order to explore the region more freely. Burton was a prolific translator who is credited with having translated over 50 books from Arabic, Indian, and other Middle Eastern languages. Amongst the most famous of his translations are those of the Arabian Nights and the Indian book, the Kama Sutra. Burton’s translation of the Kama Sutra is still considered to be the most authentic and accurate version of the text. Burton’s translation of the Arabian Nights, on the other hand, is infamous for being very sexually explicit and having removed many of the moralistic elements from the original work.

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#7 Giuseppa Barbapiccola


Giuseppa Barbapiccola was an Italian translator who specialized in translating English works into Italian. However, she also translated works from other languages into Italian, including Greek and Portuguese. Barbapiccola was most famous for her translation of the works of Charles Dickens. She translated many of Dickens’s novels, including Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. Barbapiccola’s most significant translation was that of David Copperfield. Her translation of this novel is considered to be very true to the original work and is still the most popular translation of the book. She was also a very prolific translator and completed several other critically and commercially successful translations of the works of authors including Tolstoy and Austen.


#8 Margaret Tyler


Margaret Tyler was a British scholar who specialized in translating Chinese poetry and prose into English. She is widely considered to be one of the foremost translators of Chinese literature into English. Tyler’s most famous translation is that of the Chinese poetry collection, the “Shi Jing”. She also translated other Chinese poetry such as the “Chu Ci” and “San Guo Zhi”. Tyler spent several years in China, where she learned the language and studied Chinese literature. She was also a very prolific translator. During her lifetime, she completed translations of over 20 books from Chinese languages into English. Her translations are considered to be very accurate and true to the original texts.


#9 & #10 Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky


Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky are a husband and wife duo who both have extensive experience in the world of translation. Pevear has translated works from Russian, French, and Italian, whilst Volokhonsky has translated works from Russian. The pair have become well-renowned for their translations of the Russian works of authors such as Gogol, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky. Their translation of the famous novel, “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, in particular, is considered to be the most accurate translation of the novel into English. Their translation has been praised for being very faithful to the original Russian work whilst still retaining the power and emotion of the novel.


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