Translators vs. Interpreters

What is really the difference between interpreters and translators?

What do translators do?

Translators convert a written text, from one language that is called the source language, into another that is called the target language. A translator works with document translations.

But a translator’s job is not so easy. The translator does not only translate a word and replaces it with its identical meaning in the target language, no, they will have to convey the style, the feel, the tone of the source document, taking into consideration the dialect or culture. An experienced translator will deliver a final translated document so fluent and so accurate, as if the entire document was written in the target language for the target audience. And they have to be good writers as well.

Expertise and specialty

However, a translator with legal background for example, might not be familiar with certain and specific technical industry terms when it comes to a highly technical document, therefore the translator must use an honest and fair approach and evaluation as to his or her expertise. 

Native language

Many linguists are passionate for learning languages, and in many cases a translator speaks several languages. A professional translator understands or is able to translate from several languages. But it is extremely important that a good translator focuses and specializes in one target language that is their native language. Usually, translators work in one direction, from one language to another. 

What do interpreters do?

Interpreters do not work with documents, however a seasoned interpreter can also translate documents. 

Interpreters convert speech from a source language into a target language. This is also not so easy. Interpreters must have the ability to convey the information in the target language, so he/she communicates the style and the tone of the speaker. Same as the translators, interpreters must consider the dialect and the culture of the speaker as well. The translated speech must be so fluent as if the entire speech would have been written in the target language. 

Interpreters work bi-directionally

Unlike a translator who converts a text from one language to another, the interpreter has to have the expertise and experience, fluency so that they are able to translate back and forth, for example. Not only an interpreter needs to be fluent in the target language, but fluent in the source language as well, quickly and efficiently go back and forth between the two languages fluently, so they must be good speakers as well.  

Simultaneous interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting involves the speaker using a microphone and the attendees each wearing a set of headphones. The interpreters listen to the speaker, and they then translate. 

Settings for simultaneous interpreting include court proceedings, international meetings, television news broadcasts, and press conferences. The sessions at the United Nations are the most commonly recognized use of simultaneous interpreting.

Consecutive interpreting

Consecutive interpretation is generally conducted between individuals or in small groups, meetings, person-to-person communication, and question-and-answer sessions, such as attorney-client interviews and physician-patient encounters. As the speaker talks, they take frequent pauses during which the interpreter repeats the phrase in your chosen language.

You can have more than one interpreter, which each translating into a different language if required. 

Specialty by subject area

Interpreters often specialize in certain subject areas, such as law, medicine, business, banking, technology, science, and literature. This requires an interpreter to have proven prior industry experience and in-depth knowledge of the subject are, be familiar with industry terminology in both the source and target languages.

Contact us at Lingua or call us today at 1-866-201-2921 today if you’d like a quote for your interpretation job, small or large.