Arabic Numerals are Everywhere
We do Arabic translation every day, and we must admit, we had never stopped to think about how we began to use Arabic numerals in most of the world today. Have you ever wondered how the Arabic numerals began their journey around the world?
The work of a good translator is to be invisible. They move ideas seamlessly between cultures and groups of people—ideas that are essential, groundbreaking, reality-altering, or just plain beautiful—and if the translation is good, you would never even notice that the language used to be different. However, good translation can be the “secret sauce” to success…as it certainly was centuries ago, when Arabic numerals were introduced to Europe.
But so often the translators themselves simply dissolve into the mist behind the work, as though these brilliant thoughts and ideas could possibly become so important and affect so many people without the translators who make sharing them possible.
Hindu Arabic Numerals Begin Their Journey in India
Take, for example, the history of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. For something that is now so ubiquitously used, it feels tough to remember that they ever had to be developed at all.
That idea was originally developed in India and eventually introduced to Europe by a Persian mathematician named Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī. These numerals of course went on to fundamentally alter the course of basic mathematics for all time.
Thank You Hermann of Carinthia
But wait a second. “Introduced to Europe?” The book didn’t just introduce itself. So who, pray tell, made this fabulous introduction?
Here, dear friends, is where our beloved translators come in. While we are discussing introductions, let me introduce you to a nearly invisible hero by the name of Hermann of Carinthia. It was he who put in the grueling work to transform al-Khwārizmī’s body of work from Arabic into Latin, making it possible for the great minds of the West to carry on the tradition of the great minds of the East.
These contributions were not to be sneezed at. In addition to the Hindu-Arabic numerals, Hermann also gave Europe al-Khwārizmī’s concept of algebra, and although elementary school students throughout the centuries may wish he hadn’t, it turned out to be pretty fundamental to the making of the modern world. As if that weren’t enough, al-Khwārizmī also compiled a large set of Greek and Hindu astronomical information that proved incredibly useful to the Latin-speaking world once Hermann was done with it.
Of course it’s natural that most of the credit for these projects should go to al-Khwārizmī, seeing as he actually wrote the stuff. But given that no one in Europe would have been able to read a single word of it without the help of our friend Hermann, it might not be amiss to reserve a few squiggles of ink to at least mention his name when the topic comes up.
But Maybe Not…
Because, at the end of the day, the best translators are silent heroes. When you need a document translated, you want the translator to be completely invisible. Language Tran understands that, and we’d hire old Hermann of Carinthia were he available today.
You may not need to introduce algebra to Europe, but you’re document is as important to us. Contact us for a free quote or more information on how we can help you translate your masterpiece.
This article is an edited version of an article originally written by Hari Rai Khalsa