Translation and interpretation are often treated as one and the same, but they are very distinct fields. Anyone who works in either translation or interpretation must have a passion for languages and a deep knowledge of at least two. Both translation and interpretation involve the process of converting one language to another, however the skills, approach and method are entirely different.

The Work

Translators work with the written word. Whether it be in the format of emails, books, documents or webpages. Tending to work alone on these projects, translators copy word for word or phrase for phrase from one language to another. In comparison, an interpreter will work with other people; whether it be face to face or through a remote connection. Interpreting in real time, interpreters usually paraphrase conversations to allow one party to understand another. Although similar on many levels, interpreters and translators have key differences, and as a result, must approach each task differently.

The Method

Both translation and interpretation are approached in different ways. A translation may take hours, weeks or even months to decipher, however as interpretation occurs in real time, interpreters are often needed for shorter periods of time. This could be a few hours for a meeting or a few days if the interpreter goes on a business trip.

Translation work is relatively straightforward because the entire job is written out on a piece of paper. It can be easily quantified, and in order to ensure it is correct, multiple translators can check the level of accuracy. Interpreters on the other hand need to think on their feet because they will have to translate speeches, conversations and questions to a high a degree of accuracy almost instantly. This means they have no time to plan ahead and check their work.

Both Together

Each profession has its own skillset with small overlaps. However both translators and interpreters are trained and skilled in their particular area, so usually do not undertake both simultaneously. For example, a good speech writer isn’t necessarily going to be able to deliver the speech as well as a skilled orator, and this is exactly the problem you get when a translator tries to work as an interpreter. It is therefore worth ensuring you hire the right person depending on your requirements.

If you are looking for an interpreter, make sure you hire someone who is experienced and able to meet the demands of interpretation. Why not try whym? When accuracy really matters, you need a highly skilled interpreter who is available instantly.

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