Language diversification is as old as the human capacity for speech and along with it the need for translation. In the Old World multilingual diasporas and centuries-long contact facilitated communication across language boundaries. The formerly isolated and linguistically fragmented Americas presented a new and severe challenge to the Europeans, especially the Christian missionaries. Relying on language to convert the indigenous populations, they regarded the extreme degree of language diversity as exemplifying the curse of Babel and saw their role as an extension of the early age of the apostles. Their efforts to translate the Christian message into indigenous languages highlights the interplay between language gaps and cultural gaps.
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