Did you know that The Translation Service is about to turn 65? From its inception in 1949, The Translation Service met the needs of government departments, foreigners and migrants, while promoting the need for greater professionalism in the field of translation in New Zealand.

Portrait of Professor von ZedlitzThe first official translator in New Zealand was Professor von Zedlitz, Professor of Modern Languages at Victoria University of Wellington. He was appointed in 1911 and acted in a part-time capacity until sometime after the outbreak of the first World War. Thereafter, translations, mainly from French and Spanish, were carried out by a lady in the Office of the Attorney General, and later by Mr Donovan of the Post and Telegraph Department. However, censorship requirements during the second World War called for a wider and more robust translation system. This was organised by the Naturalisation Officer and author of ‘From Europe to New Zealand’, Dr R. A. Lochore who carried out translations on a part-time basis within the Department of Internal Affairs and laid the foundations of The Translation Service. In the period after the second World War, the influx of foreigners and a growing demand for translations from government agencies called for a full-time translation unit.

Demand was fuelled by a desire to keep abreast with international research in the technical and scientific fields, as it soon became apparent that specialists could only keep up with progress, especially in geographically isolated New Zealand, by being able to also read material published in foreign languages. By mid-1952, The Translation Service had a network of more than 100 freelance translators and interpreters who were made available to the courts to assist in dealing with ship deserters or new settlers whose knowledge of English was insufficient. TTS then covered 29 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Esperanto and Yiddish, and in the financial year of 1951, translated 528 documents, 110 educational certificates, 250 letters, 137 technical and scientific articles, and 177 tables of contents of technical and scientific periodicals, and carried out 44 miscellaneous jobs.

While most translations were commissioned by government departments, commercial firms made increasing use of TTS for business correspondence, as it was the only translation provider in the country at the time.

To be continued…