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February 27, 2015 2:48 pm Published by Comments Off on Do you get translation and interpreting mixed up? We explain the difference.

If you have never worked with translations before, you might wonder what the difference between translators and interpreters is. While both professions specialise in transferring meaning from one language to another, there are important differences which are worth knowing.

Written or spoken?

The interpreter

Translation refers to the process of converting written words, or text, from one language into another, whereas interpreting means translating orally the words of a person who speaks a different language.

Immediate or not?

Interpreters and translators do not work in the same conditions, and the time they have to deal with their tasks vary greatly. Interpreters work in real-time (simultaneous interpreting) or almost real-time (consecutive interpreting), generally in person but sometimes on the phone or via a video conference. They need to be quick and extremely reactive as they have very little time to process the words of the speaker and transfer them into the other language. On the other hand, translators have the time to read and study the source text and to use tools such as glossaries, dictionaries or parallel texts. If necessary, they can ask the client to clarify a specific aspect or sentence if the source text is not 100% clear. Finally, they always proofread their own work at the end to make sure that no mistake has slipped through.

Work desk with laptop, lamp, notebook and coffee cup

Working language pairs

Most translators only work into their mother tongue for the simple reason that their command of their native language is only rarely matched by that of a language acquired later in life. This means that if a client needs to translate a letter, for example, from language A into language B, ApLingo will use a translator whose native language is B. If, then, when they receive a reply, the same client needs to translate it the other way around, we will work with another translator whose mother tongue is language A.

Most interpreters work into and out of their mother tongue. They are highly qualified people who must be fluent enough in their working languages to translate speech on all kinds of subjects in both directions, virtually instantly, without referring to any supportive material.

As you can see, interpreting and translation are two different professions that require different training and skill sets. This is why professionals are usually either translators or interpreters, and only rarely both. They share the same passion, however, for languages, and for effective communication and without them “we would inhabit parishes bordering on silence” (George Steiner).

We hope that this article helped clarify which professional can help you in which circumstances. If you have any questions, or if you would like to know more about our services, please feel free to give us a call on 0800 389 6571 or send us an email (translation@aplin.co.uk).

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