Interpretation and translation are two linguistic disciplines that are closely related to each other, share common attitude and respect towards languages and differ diametrically in terms of the approaches used to render the text from the source into the target language. 

Both interpretation and translation are part of the business life of any company that deals with foreign partners or customers. Document translation is essential if you want to keep and present your brand image at a new market and therefore choosing a good language service provider is of paramount importance. The same is absolutely valid for interpreting. If you want the event you are holding, no matter if it is a small workshop or international conference, to be truly successful you need to hire professional interpreters. Business interpretation services as provided by the leading experts in the industry is what every company needs. 

All in all, interpretation and translation are part of the business life, however many people struggle to make the difference between them or often use the terms interchangeably. Since these are two distinctive activities, below you can find some information that can help you differentiate between them, despite some of the similarities that they do share.  

The Basics of Interpretation

Interpretation is more than just talking in a foreign language in front of a group of people at a conference. It is a real-time cross-linguistic communication through which the conversation is rendered from one language into another. The service is provided by professional interpreters, who listen to the speaker talking in the source language to grasp the meaning and reiterate the idea in the target language. Interpretation is not done word-for-word but it is rather a transfer of ideas and overall meaning. 

There are two main types of interpreting: 

  • Simultaneous Interpretation – the interpreter works in an isolated booth and listens and speaks at the same time. There is no way to use dictionaries or other such materials and the interpreter has little room for hesitation or mistakes. It is important not to interpret word for word but grasp the meaning and present it with the relative linguistic tools into the target language. The interpreter should be able to work in both directions – from language A into B and vice versa. Simultaneous interpretation is used in various situations, mainly during conferences, high-level meetings, at different institutions, such as courts, the EU institutions and many others; 
  • Consecutive Interpretation – the interpreter sits together with the delegates and interprets the speech in regular intervals. Usually a speaker talks for a short time, the interpreter takes notes and then presents the text in the target language. This form of interpretation is more suitable for workshops and face-to-face meetings and is often used at high level meetings between ministers or presidents. 

Other forms that professional interpretation services include are: 

  • Escort/Travel Interpretation 
  • Whisper Interpretation 
  • Scheduled Phone/Over-the-Phone Interpretation 
  • On-Demand Phone Interpretation 

The Basics of Translation 

Translation is a written rendering of a text from one language into another. It requires excellent knowledge of both languages and of the subject matter covered. The aim is to present the text in the target language with the highest possible accuracy, which means paying attention to specific usage of terms, abbreviations, idioms, expressions.  

A good translator must have excellent linguistic and cultural skills and should be able to write well in the target language. As a rule, the translator translates a text only in their native language. It is better to assign your business translation to a professional who has experience in the subject matter.  

A good translator always has a library of good dictionaries handy and also uses other reference materials in order to be as precise as possible in the translation. Internet and online sources are also very helpful in the everyday work of the translator.   

Common Skills for Translation and Interpretation Professionals  

We can safely say that translation and interpretation complement each other and both translators and interpreters share some common skills and qualities. These competences help them not only present the text, the words and the overall meaning of the written or spoken source into another language but also give it the cultural nuances it deserves. The main abilities of translation and interpreting professionals include: 

  • Excellent knowledge of both the source and the target language 
  • Abundant general knowledge 
  • Extensive knowledge in one or more specific areas 
  • Familiarity with the cultures of both the source and the target languages 
  • Performing quick analyses  
  • Delivery of top-notch service 
  • Reaction in short-notice 
  • Sticking to deadlines 
  • Specific education and professional growth path 

Last but not least we shall mention that both translators and interpreters share a common love and respect of the language as a means of expression.   

Interpretation vs Translation: What are the Main Differences? 

At first sight, the main difference between interpretation and translation is in the medium: the interpreter renders the text into the target language orally, while the translator does it in writing. Quite often this is the only difference that people can point out. There are a few more, however, that define the way an interpreter and a translator perform their job. Here are the main ones: 

  • Delivery – as already mentioned the most obvious difference is the way each professional delivers the final product. While the interpreter works in real-time and delivers the “translated text” orally, the translator has a certain period to work over the task and delivers the translated text in writing;  
  • Language – both professionals should have extensive knowledge of the source and target language. The difference is that the interpreters should be fluent in both as they have to work in both directions, meaning they translated from the foreign language into their mother tongue and vice versa. The translators are required to translate only into their mother tongue (there might be exceptions, of course, but they are rare);  
  • Tools – the tools an interpreter uses in their job include a microphone and headphones in a booth for simultaneous interpreting and a notepad and a pen for consecutive interpreting. The translator has different instruments at their disposal: a computer, dictionaries, internet access, CAT tools (computer or assisted translation tools);  
  • Time – the interpreter provides the service immediately, while the translator has a given period to translate the text and hand it over; 
  • Payment Method – an interpreter is paid by the hour or by the day, whereas a translator is paid by the word, per page or in some cases by the hour too.  

It is interesting to know that there are few professionals who are both interpreters and translators as the approach to the service is different. Translators strive for perfection – to find the most accurate words and phrases in the target language, while interpreters strive for another form of perfection – to render the most accurate message while analyzing and summarizing the speech they hear.  

To sum up, we can say that both interpreting and translation are services that require the absolute dedication and professionalism of the people who provide them. They have a series of similarities between them but also quite a few distinctive differences. Knowing what they are can help you when you need to choose the best translation or interpretation services for your business.  

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