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Translation has existed as long as there has been written literature. Translations of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest known literary works in the world, have been found in several Southwest Asian languages of the second millennium B.C. Religious, literary, philosophical, and scientific texts were the most commonly translated resources. One of the first recorded translations in the Western world was the translation of the Old Testament into Greek between 300-200 B.C. This translation became known as the Septuagint, a name that references the 70 Jewish scholars who were hired to work on the translation in Alexandria, Egypt.  (The term “Septuagint” means seventy in Latin.)

Since the Industrial Revolution, translators have expanded their translation work to business and legal documents, technical manuals, and other nonreligious and nonliterary publications. The growth of the Internet and other technology has greatly expanded job opportunities for translators.

In the last 60 or so years, the field of translation has become a formal discipline, with postsecondary programs in translation and professional associations emerging to serve the needs of those interested in the field. The American Translators Association, one of the leading organizations for translators, was founded in 1959. It has more than 10,000 members in more than 130 countries. The American Literary Translators Association was founded in 1978. It is the only organization in the United States that is dedicated solely to the art of literary translation. 

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