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Translators or Interpreters: What’s the Difference?

Translators or interpreters, what's the difference

If you’ve been looking for a translation agency, you may have seen these two terms being used interchangeably. So what’s the difference between translation and interpretation?

First of all they are similar services. Both of their services include converting information from one language to another. It’s the method and the focus that differs the two from each other.  

The main difference is that interpreters work with the spoken word and translators work with the written word. This then affects how they’re converted and what kind of work they are best suited to.


The role of a translator

An interpreter will take words and overall messages and convert it into another language in a way that makes the most sense to the person reading it. This means that there’s more to it than simply interpreting words

Instead a translator will adapt the original text in a way that makes sense to the reader while also retaining the meaning and aims of the original text.

As well as being able to translate accurately, translators must also have strong writing, editing and proofreading skills as well as being multilingual.

Translators have an advantage over interpreters because they often have a lot more time to make the conversion from one language to another. Translators can edit and proofread, while an interpreter can’t in a business meeting.

Text translations can often be more complicated or technical so it’s important that agencies offer translators who have specialised knowledge of the industry they’re translating in. This is why translators who work alone will work within a particular industry, for examples, financial. An agency will usually be able to cover multiple industries if they hire different types of translators.


The role of an interpreter  

Interpretations differ from translations as they focus on the spoken word. However they are similar in the sense that neither will simply provide a word-for-word translation. An interpreter will also rephrase things wherever necessary.

Interpreters, much like translators need to have a very strong understanding of the languages they’re working with. Meaning can very easily be lost once colloquialisms and slang come into play as they’re harder to translate. These come up far more often in the spoken word than the written word. In cases like these, translating the exact meaning won’t make a lot of sense so an alternative needs to be found.

Interpretation is often done in person but when that’s not possible they can work via phone or video calls. There are two main types, consecutive and simultaneous interpretations. Consecutive interpreting is when a speaker pauses to allow an interpreter to repeat what they’ve said in another language.

Simultaneous interpreting is when they speak at the same time as the original speaker. This is more common in face-to-face business meetings. In this case, an interpreter will often whisper the translations in their client’s ear while they’re being spoken. 

It’s worth noting that as time is often limited during interpretations, it’s challenging to maintain 100% accuracy in live settings like business meetings.


Which do you need?

This will entirely depend on the nature of what you want to translate. If you’ve got some big business meetings coming up with people from different countries, then an interpreter who is experienced in this kind of work will be your best bet.

If you’ve got texts that need translating, then a translator is going to be better suited than an interpreter who isn’t as experienced in dealing with the written word.

You may find that there’s some crossover but make sure you’re picking an agency that is experienced in providing what you need.

At AirV, we have 20 years’ experience in working with highly specific written texts. You will find that we offer a number of different translation services in fields including, financial, creative, technical, legal and medical.

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