Translations vs Interpretation – What’s the Difference?
Following on from our previous post on the differences between translation and localisation, we’re now here to examine the differences between translation and interpretation. It’s simple really – translation is written, while interpretation is oral.
Is that it?
Not exactly. While both require being able to speak two languages, they also require completely different types of training and skillsets.
Most translators will only work into their native language. This is because to translate fluently and accurately, you need to do it into the language with which you are most familiar.
Translation isn’t just taking text and converting it into another language, the industry standard is dynamic or sense-for-sense translation. This requires a high level of competency in both the language and the culture you’re translating from. However, because you only translate into your native language, you don’t necessarily need to be fluent in your second language.
Translators also have a fair amount of time to work on their pieces. The act of translation is slower because it requires more research and revision. Translation usually goes through a multi-step process as well, including editing and quality assurance checks.
Interpretors work with the clock against them. There are two different types of interpreting: consecutive and simultaneous.
Consecutive interpreters are often found in medical and legal settings. They normally wait for a person to finish their sentence or pause to begin interpreting – listening and then speaking. This can happen nearly anywhere: on the phone, in-person, or during a Zoom meeting.
It may have even happened to you while visiting a friend in a different country. Someone in a shop asks you something, and you look to your friend to interpret. This is consecutive interpreting, on a small scale.
As you can imagine, this can cause a conversation to be relatively stilted, but it is generally more accurate. It’s also less mentally taxing than simultaneous interpreting.
Simultaneous interpreting, sometimes called conference interpreting, is notably more challenging. Simultaneous interpreters are often in sound-proof booths, with headphones, listening to someone speak and interpreting, in real-time, what the speakers are saying. Because the level of concentration needed to interpret simultaneously is so high, often interpreters work in teams of two for twenty- to thirty-minute stints at a time.
You see simultaneous interpreting play out in a lot of political events – think of delegates to the UN wearing headsets so they can understand what is being said in real-time, or momentous speeches given by heads of state on live television.
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