Edith Grossman in Guernica:
Octavio Paz, the Nobel Prize-winning Mexican writer, begins his essay “Translation: Literature and Letters” with the sentence: “When we learn to speak, we are learning to translate.” He states that children translate the unknown into a language that slowly becomes familiar to them, and that all of us are continually engaged in the translation of thoughts into language. Then he develops an even more suggestive notion: no written or spoken text is “original” at all, since language, what ever else it may be, is a translation of the nonverbal world, and each linguistic sign and phrase translates another sign and phrase. And this means, in an absolutely utopian sense, that the most human of phenomena—the acquisition and use of language—is, according to Paz, actually an ongoing, endless process of translation; and by extension, the most creative use of language—that is, literature is also a process of translation: not the transmutation of the text into another language but the transformation and concretization of the content of the writer’s imagination into a literary artifact. As many observers, including John Felstiner and Yves Bonnefoy, have suggested, the translator who struggles to re-create a writer’s words in the words of a foreign language in fact continues the original struggle of the writer to transpose nonverbal realities into language. In short, as they move from the workings of the imagination to the written word, authors engage in a process that is parallel to what translators do as we move from one language to another.
More here. (Note: I just finished the translation of Don Quixote by Ms. Grossman and it is fantastic, with the added bonus of an erudite and brilliant introduction by the great Harold Bloom. I strongly recommend it.)