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The difference between translation and interpretation?

What is the difference between translation and interpretation?

For most people, translation and interpretation are the same things. How farther from the truth could they be!

Sure enough, translators and interpreters have a shared love of languages. And in-depth knowledge of more than one language. However, that’s just about the only similarities there is between both professions.


Do I need translation or interpretation?

While interpreters translate spoken words, usually in real-time, a translator works with written words. Herein lies the heart of the difference – the medium of operation.

Moreover, both professions require an entirely different set of skills and expertise. It is, in fact, very rare to find a translator who also doubles as an interpreter at a professional level.

That said, here are a couple of differences between translation and interpretation.

Interpretation is instant 

Interpreters work in real-time. They translate the spoken words on the spot. At the same time, they are listening to what’s being said at the moment.

A typical interpreter works with little to no aid. They must rely on their ability to listen and think quickly. They must also master both the source language and one they are interpreting into.

On the other hand, a translator works with written documents. They usually don’t work in real-time. Furthermore, they may rely on other tools such as computer-assisted translation to complete their task.

Interpreters must develop a fine-tuned listening ability

Because the interpreter is translating the words as they are being spoken, they need to rely so much more on their ability to listen to catch every word said.

Also, interpreters need to be accomplished public speakers to communicate with their listeners effectively.

While translators rely on their writing ability to translate documents, they are also adept at applying grammar rules, can adhere to content style and tone as well as perfectionists in nature to ensure the overall accuracy of the file.


Translation emphasizes on accuracy

While translators have ample time to ensure their work is both accurate and conveys the intended message.

Interpreters, on the other hand, don’t have such luxury. They typically translate works on the spot, hence the emphasis most times is on maintaining the integrity of the message and less on accuracy.

In a live-setting, interpreters often opt to paraphrase source language within context while retaining its original meaning.


Translators often use technologies to speed up their work

With the advancement in technology, it is expected that translators leverage technology where necessary to make their job easier and faster.

Usually, when translating a document, the translator will run the file through a computer-assisted translation tool. The machine automatically renders anything it had translated in the past. It also goes a step further to fill in the gap for new words and phrases it hadn’t encountered before.

Then, the translator will go through the document referencing glossaries and style guides to ensure quality after which they pass it on to another translator to proofread. It’s only after then that they work can be certified as completed.


Conclusion – translation or interpretation?

However, unlike this translation process that requires several steps and quality check, interpreters don’t use any tool when interpreting. They have to rely solely on their experience, skills, and knowledge of the source and target language.

Now you know the critical differences between a translator and an interpreter, you’re ready to hire each professional based on their skill and requirement of your project.

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