What’s the difference between a translator and an interpreter?

What’s the difference between a translator and an interpreter?

The primary distinction between translation and interpretation services is the medium on which they concentrate. Translation is the process of changing text from one language to another, whereas interpretation is the process of changing speech from one language to another.

Translation and interpretation are only two of the many language services available to assist you in communicating. Translation, interpretation, localization, and transcreation can all be beneficial to your organisation, they are all used in different contexts. If you’ve never used these services before, determining which one you require can be difficult.

This article clarifies the differences between translation and interpretation services. We go through how each language service differs, when you might need one, and what skills to look for when hiring a translator or interpreter.

Is a translation the same as interpretation?

No, translation is not the same as interpretation. Find out what distinguishes a translator from an interpreter, and vice versa.

What is interpretation?

The act of transferring spoken words from one language to another in real-time, usually conducted by a professional interpreter, is known as interpretation. Interpretation can be done in person, over the phone via over-the-phone interpretation (OPI), or via video call.

When working with partners, clients, or customers that do not speak your native language, you may require interpretation services. On-site interpretation, over-the-phone interpretation, and real-time digital chat capabilities are all examples of professional interpretation services.

Types of interpretation

Depending on the conditions and demands of the two parties involved, interpreters utilise one of two primary forms of interpretation. They can be summed up as follows:

  • Simultaneous interpretation:

Simultaneous interpretation necessitates a high level of focus. The delivery occurs virtually simultaneously with the speaker’s words in the original language. The interpreter must listen to, convert, and speak the new words almost instantaneously because the time delay is minimal. When interpreters pair up, simultaneous interpretation works best, allowing one person to take a vocal and mental break every few minutes.

  • Consecutive interpretation:

In consecutive interpretation, the interpreter speaks after the first person finishes a sentence in successive interpretation. This style of interpretation, which has a longer time delay, is useful in situations where time isn’t a constraint, such as casual interactions.

What is translation?

The process of converting a written text from one language to another is known as translation. A successful translation efficiently communicates the original text’s message and meaning. Written texts are translated into a new language by a skilled translator. Brochures, posters, websites, and books are all examples of this.

Translators are usually experts in a certain field or industry. This expertise provides them with the necessary basic knowledge to accurately capture the meaning of a text and translate it into the target language.

Going beyond translation

You must consider localization and transcreation in addition to translation if you want your message to truly resonate. Both localization and transcreation delve further into the linguistic and cultural characteristics of a place. 

Localization, which includes translation, focuses on adapting material to appeal to a specific target market in a certain location. When marketers localise content, they take their original message and make it relevant to global audiences on a local level.

Transcreation, on the other hand, recreates content with a focus on avoiding cultural references that the target population may not understand. Brands can confidently keep the essence, voice, and passion of their messaging in new areas thanks to transcreation services.

Translator vs. interpreter vs. bilingual individual

What is the difference between a bilingual individual and a translator or interpreter?

A bilingual individual is able to communicate in two languages. However, being bilingual does not automatically qualify someone to work as a professional interpreter or translator. To be effective in their occupations, interpreters and translators require extra training. Being a professional also implies that an interpreter or translator’s abilities have been evaluated by language competence tests and industry-specific tests.

Interpreter skills

Interpreters must have strong language skills in both the source and destination languages. They won’t be able to summarise the dialogue in a way that keeps its meaning if they can’t follow the conversation’s context. As a result, professional interpreters must be able to communicate in both languages.

Interpreters are orally fluent since they work with the spoken word. They are familiar with each language’s spoken norms, regionalisms, and colloquialisms. They do not, however, attempt to translate what is spoken word for word. Attempting to translate a sentence into another language in real-time would distort the original meaning and cause confusion for both parties. Paraphrasing is at the heart of interpretation.

Interpreters listen to what is spoken, decipher what it means, and then translate it into new words in the target language. An interpreter’s toolbox must also include subject area competence. In highly technical discussions, familiarity with a subject is advantageous, especially when participants may use various terminology or acronyms for the same terms.

An interpreter should have the following specific skills:

  • Exceptional listening skills and memory recall to remember words and convert them from one language to another in real-time
  • Good note-taking abilities
  • Excellent customer service and communication abilities
  • In addition to grammar, a strong grasp of syntax 

Translator skills

Translators, like interpreters, need to be fluent in both the source and target languages. They must also be familiar with the idioms and colloquialisms of the language they are translating. Translators are typically natural speakers of the target language.

To assist them in translating content written in the original language, technical translators use dictionaries and glossaries. Although translating usually has a deadline, it does not have the same sense of urgency as interpreting. Nevertheless, translation consumers often have a higher expectation in regards to accuracy.

Translators often specialise in a certain area, such as medical translation or legal document translation, in addition to their linguistic competence. They can increase the quality and accuracy of their translations by gaining a more comprehensive understanding and industry expertise in these domains.

A translator should have the following specific skills:

  • Ability to research words and concepts
  • Excellent composition and grammar skills in both languages

When to use translation or interpretation?

When deciding between interpretation and translation, it’s helpful to think about why you’re seeking language services in the first place. This is especially true in circumstances where both services are needed, such as a meeting with a discussion and a written report.

Let’s use a meeting as an example to better clarify the decision. It’s recommended to hire interpreting services if the meeting’s main focus is discussion and the written section is a summary handout. If, on the other hand, the written report is the main emphasis of the meeting, you’ll need a translated document to ensure that all attendees get the key elements.

While both translation and interpretation services can be beneficial in many situations, they are not always required. Focusing on your main aim will help you make the best option possible and avoid communication being a barrier.

Tips for choosing quality translation and interpretation services

The tips for choosing quality translation and interpretation services are as follows: begin by examining how a potential provider recruits and trains translators and interpreters. It’s also a good idea to inquire about their data security, as well as their technological capabilities and how they handle assistance queries.

It is no longer optional to provide linguistic solutions to match the needs of your target audience. In addition to being the correct thing to do, many healthcare and government entities are obligated by law to do so. 

Need interpretation services?

In practice, translation and interpretation appear to be very different. Translation services are typically text-based, whereas interpretation services deal with spoken language in real time. While interpretation is a quick and intense process, translation takes time and effort. Both language services strive to retain and effectively deliver a message, but they are constrained in different ways.

Both translation and interpretation may help you communicate more effectively, create partnerships, and advance your business. However, if you want to efficiently overcome the language barrier, you must choose the correct solution. If you’re still having trouble selecting which service is appropriate for your project, a language services provider (LSP) can assist, and come up with a solution that works for you.

As one of Canada’s foremost LSPs, SM-Global has experience in interpretation to make your content transformation project a success. Contact us now for a conversation and take the first step towards a deeper connection with your international customers, followers and employees.

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