Gettysburg Address Translation: 29 Translations of One of the World’s Most Famous Speeches

  • Time to read: 5 min.

As an affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Gettysburg Address translation sources are few and far between. However, because the Gettysburg Address is not only one of the most revered documents in American history, but also widely recognized throughout the world, it is important to provide the text in multiple languages.

Many people throughout the world are interested in reading its text and knowing why it holds such as important place in the history of the United States. And for people that don’t speak English, this is a difficult task if the document and text aren’t presented in a language understandable to the reader.

And running the text through Google Translate just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do to get a good study of the document.

Gettysburg Address Translations

Gettysburg Address Translations

Well, luckily, a famous historian by the name of Roy P. Basler compiled twenty-nine translations of the Gettysburg Address in 1972. The compilation was then published by the Library of Congress.

The reason for the Gettysburg Address translation compilation was to allow visitors to the many Lincoln tributes to get at least a feel of what American democracy meant to President Lincoln, which, if you think about it, was great foresight on the part of Basler.

In addition to providing visitors whose native language is not English a way to understand a bit more the vision of Abraham Lincoln, these translations also give translation students and translators a good resource to study at least one way someone came to translate the Gettysburg Address in a particular language. As we all know, the length of a document doesn’t necessarily correlate to how difficult it can be to translate, and the Gettysburg Address translations are a good example of that.

Getting a feel for what the Gettysburg Address meant at the time it was read and what it means now to people who read it, is a difficult thing to master in another language, especially 29 other languages that aren’t your native tongue. Granted, Basler didn’t do all of the translations himself but had them commissioned. Still, as the person who had to compile all the translations and make sure they were up to par, Basler had a difficult task ahead of him. However, I think he did a good job.

If you’re interested in the location of the actual book in the Library of Congress Catalog, search for Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in Translation at the online catalog of the Library Congress.

You can also access all 29 translations of the Gettysburg Address that Basler included in his book, “Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in Translation.”

How to Use the Gettysburg Address in Translation

How to Use the Gettysburg Address in Translation

One of the cool things to do with the Gettysburg Address is to go through line by line in English and compare it to some of the Spanish versions that are out there.

For example, Wikipedia has a Spanish version of the “Discurso de Gettysburg” that anyone could look at and do a pretty detailed comparison on how to it stacks up to the English version. The Wikipedia entry doesn’t say who translated the text, so it could be several different people, and a lot of times there really isn’t one single right answer on how to translate a word, a phrase, or let alone a whole sentence.

In fact, at one point there was a pretty good discussion of the topic at one of the Wordreference Forums that would be interesting to read for anyone who has an interest in translating historical texts.

These can be some of the more difficult translations to work on, because not only do translators need to be aware of the historical, political, and societal contexts in which the text was written or spoken, but translators also need to ensure that their biases don’t enter into the translation they are providing.

Most translators (both full-time and part-time translators) would say that they would never allow this to happen, but it isn’t something that most translators consciously think of; instead, it happens without us even thinking about it and we as translators need to realize that this happens and ensure that we try to minimize it as much as possible. This is especially true when translating historical texts like the Gettysburg Address.

The Translations

As I mentioned previously, Basler compiled the translations of 29 languages, which you can find below (as well as a link to the corresponding translation that can be found at the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation website):

Why Translate Historical Documents?

Why Translate Historical Documents like the Gettysburg Address?

So why even care about the translation of historical documents in the first place? Is it really that important?

Yes, 100%.

There are several reasons why it can be important to have a translation of a historical document:

  • To allow people who don’t speak the original language to access the text and learn from it
  • To ensure that the meaning of the text isn’t lost in translation
  • To provide different interpretations of the text that can be used for educational and research purposes
  • To create a more accurate record of what was actually said or written

There are probably other reasons as well, but those are some of the more important ones. The Gettysburg Address is an excellent example of why translations of historical documents are so important, especially when it comes to ensuring that the meaning of the text isn’t lost in translation.

The Gettysburg Address is one of the most famous speeches ever given, and as such, it has been translated into dozens of languages. However, there are some key phrases in the speech that can be easily misunderstood if not translated correctly.

For example, the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is often translated as “a government of the masses/people”. However, this isn’t an accurate translation of what Lincoln actually said.

What Lincoln was trying to say is that the government should be run by the people and for the people. The phrase “of the people, by the people, for the people” is actually a very specific way of saying this, and it’s important to make sure that the meaning isn’t lost in translation.

This is just one example, but there are many others throughout the speech. This is why it’s so important to have accurate translations of historical documents; otherwise, the meaning of the text can be easily lost and misconstrued.

FAQ – Gettysburg Address Translation

What is the Gettysburg Address?

The Gettysburg Address is a speech that was delivered by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The speech was delivered on November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Why was the Gettysburg Address given?

The Gettysburg Address was given in order to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The cemetery was established to bury the soldiers who had died during the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place from July 1-3, 1863.

How long is the Gettysburg Address?

The Gettysburg Address is only 272 words long.

Who wrote the Gettysburg Address?

Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address.

What is the main theme of the Gettysburg Address?

The main theme of the Gettysburg Address is democracy and how government should be “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

How do you say “Gettysburg Address” in Spanish?

Normally, you would say “el Discurso de Gettysburg.”