It seems to me, that the true reason, why we have so few versions which are tolerable, is not from the too close pursuing of the Author's sense, but because there are so few, who have all the Talents, which are requisite for Translation, and that there is so little Praise, and so small Encouragement, for so considerable a part of learning. [Original punctuation]
Say what we may of the inadequacy of translation, yet the work is and will always be one of the weightiest and worthiest undertakings in the general concerns of the world.[Thomas Carlyle: 20.07.1827]
There would be no world literature without translators. Our [German] culture would be much the poorer.
Renaissance translators were extremely versatile. Writers as well as translators, many of them were also lexicographers, proof-readers, printers and booksellers. As such, they contributed to the proliferation of works on every aspect of language. Poetics, rhetoric, grammar, spelling, pronunciation and so on. These translators were also responsible for the first dictionaries.
As my Italian improved [in Italy], I realised that to understand a word you have to live it […] I became an alert, greedy eavesdropper. From the ironic snarl in a bus conductor's voice, I finally grasped the meaning of magari (try looking up that many faceted word in a dictionary). Listening to the simplest words, I learned how an inflection can change their meaning. Spoken in a certain way, si can actually mean no.
Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.