Friday 27 February 2015

What is the difference between translation and interpreting?

If you are new to the translation industry, you might wonder what differentiates these two closely related disciplines. While both services involve transferring meaning or content from one language to another, there are a number of significant differences.

Translators write and interpreters talk

The term “translation” refers to the process of translating written words or text from one language into another, while “interpreting” means translating orally the words of a person speaking a different language.

Time dimension

Interpreters and translators do not have the same amount of time to carry out these processes. Interpreting occurs in real-time (simultaneous) or almost real-time (consecutive), generally in person but sometimes on the phone or through a video conference. Interpreters need to be quick and extremely reactive. Depending on the type of interpreting used, and the pace at which the speaker speaks, interpreters have very little time to transpose oral content into another language. On the other hand, because translators deal with written content, it takes place after a document is created. Translators do have time to read and evaluate the content that they will translate, as many times as is necessary. They can use different resources if they wish, such as glossaries, dictionaries, reference material etc., or even ask the client to clarify any queries they might have. Finally they take the time to proofread their own work once they have completed their translation.

Language direction

Most translators only work in one “direction” (for example, from English into Russian or from Russian into English). The reason behind this is that translators are able to produce a better quality translation and a faster turnaround time when they work into his/her native language rather than into a language that they have acquired later in life. For translation projects, we refer to the source (from) and target (into) languages. Therefore when a client requires a document to be translated from language A into language B, and then a response document translated the other way round, ApLingo will work with two different translators; one whose mother tongue is language A and another one whose native language is language B. The key skills of a translator are to understand the source language and to use their knowledge of the target country’s culture and linguistic norms to create accurate and effective end documents.

Most interpreters work in both “directions”. They are highly-qualified people, who must be fluent enough in at least two languages to be able to translate orally in both directions, straight away, without any reference material.  

Interpreting and translation are two different professions that require different skills and different training. Therefore, professionals usually practice either as a translator or as an interpreter but rarely both. They share the same passion, however, for languages and for meaningful transferring of information which would otherwise remain inaccessible to some people.

We hope that this article has been helpful but if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a call or send an email. We would be happy to hear from you on 0800 389 6571 or by email (