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What’s the difference between interpretation and translation?

Last Updated On: July 10, 2017 by The Migration Translators

interpreter-translator Migration Translators
What’s the difference between interpretation and translation?
Last updated:October 13th, 2014 by The Migration Translators

In reality, there is a lot in common between the work of an interpreter and a translator, but the differences are also significant. Those people who work as part of a translation service generally work with the written word. They may be required to translate birth certificates or employment records for an individual who has requested immigration translation or they may be involved in translating business documents or correspondence for a company that is doing business with another business or a government agency in another country.

Interpreters generally work orally, i.e. they are required to listen to what someone has said in one language and then convert that into another language. Interpreters are used at conferences, in courtrooms and police stations, when immigrants are requesting help from a government department or more informally with a group of tourists on holiday.

Both translators and interpreters may have started out the same way. They may have the same formal education or training and are bilingual or multilingual and have found a way of using their skills to make a living. Generally, both translators and interpreters require separate training from each other and may belong to different associations. It is unlikely that the translator would find it easy to do the work of an interpreter without the specific training for that profession and vice versa despite the two jobs seeming to be so similar.

Translators may work in-house, i.e. in an office and because they work with text, they may often spend long hours using a computer. Many translation experts are freelance or work from home and consequently often find that their work is solitary or at least not very social. Translators also work under less pressure time wise compared to interpreters. While it is very important that they get their translations done accurately, there is less need to complete the translation immediately.

Interpreters have a quite different work environment. Because they provide an oral service, they are under a lot of pressure to get their language interpretation done straight away. Interpreters may have some idea about the context of what they are expected to interpret in advance and may be able to prepare themselves before they are actually required to interpret. Interpreters are naturally more exposed to other people than translators and so the interpreter’s job is a more social one.