Translation or Interpretation – 3 Important Questions Answered

Outside the language service industry, the words translation and interpretation are usually used interchangeably. Today we address 3 big questions that will explain the differences, and who should be hired to provide each.

What’s the difference between translation and interpretation?

The definitions of translation and interpretation explain the difference. Translation is defined as the transformation of the written word from one language to another. Interpretation is defined as the conversion of the spoken word from one language to another.

Translation is done when a written document, or website, is received in the source language and converted to the target language. A high-quality translation will not just be a word for word change from one language to another, a professional translation renders the meaning from the source to target language.

Interpretation can be face-to-face, over the phone or a video call – called consecutive interpretation – or in a large group or conference setting with audio equipment, like you may have seen at the UN – this is called simultaneous interpreting.

interpreter-translatorCan I hire one person to do both?

While both professions require a deep language of both the source and target languages, as well as knowledge of the culture, the job description and the skills needed to successfully perform these two professions are very different, and ideally should be performed by different professionals.

A translator’s skills include:

  • Excellent writing skills
  • Being up-to-date on the technology used in the industry and comfortable on a computer
  • Being self-motivated and able to complete assignments autonomously

An interpreter’s skills, on the other hand, include:

  • Excellent listening and interpersonal skills
  • Excellent memory and retention so they can remember and convey the exact message
  • An ability to impartial and objective and not interject their own opinion

It is best practice to hire the correct professional linguist for the job you need.

Consecutive-interpreting-medWhy can’t I use bilingual staff, family or friends to translate/interpret?

While staff, family, or a friend may be familiar with your business or the subject matter at hand for an interpretation, they are not the best choice. For translations, you want to hire a professional who is versed not only in your industry, but who has experience translating messages into the target language and culture. You don’t want to end up with a bad translation which could hurt your bottom line.  For interpretation, using a professional interpreter will ensure that the full message is conveyed without any interjection of opinion or emotion. You’ll know that what is said is exactly what is conveyed.

Using a professional language service provider like Rapport International is the best way to make sure all your translation and interpretation needs are met and are of the highest-quality. Contact Rapport International with questions or to get a free quote.

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Categories: Project Planning & Management, Spoken Communications


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