Translation and interpreting – Do you need a translation or an interpretation?

Hai bisogno di una traduzione o di una interpretazione?

Most people don't know the difference between translation and interpretation. For them it's the same working conditions, the same knowledge, the same studies, etc... in short, the same profession.

However, if we look into the matter, we realize that these are two very different professions that we shouldn't confuse.

Main differences between translation and interpretation

In the translation sector, the translator works with written or audiovisual documents, but will not have to speak at any time. Mastery of writing is the key to success in this profession. The translator must carry out an investigation and read up on the scope of the document, must be able to convey a faithful message by adapting the content to the target culture.

Furthermore, it is necessary to respect the established delivery terms, generally imposed by the client, which are often short, without neglecting the quality of the writing, translation and final revision. Translation requires a totally different agility and mental capacity than an interpreter. Being a good translator does not always mean being a good interpreter. Fluency in foreign languages and the idea of translating a message are the only similarities between the two professions.

In the field of interpreting, the interpreter must have oral expression skills and be a good communicator. This job is much more tiring since, although there is usually prior preparation, the unknowns associated with this type of profession are greater, if only because the interpreter must be able to transmit the interlocutor's message in real time. This is one of the reasons why interpreters, especially in simultaneous interpretations of more than two hours, usually work in pairs, alternating the times of the interventions (generally every half hour).

Proficiency in the native language, as well as the target language, is essential. There is no room for error in interpretation, as an error in information can have disastrous consequences (inconsistencies, omissions of information…). Speed and the ability to synthesize information are one of the key skills of a good interpreter.

The message must summarize the main idea elaborated by the interlocutor and the interpreter must be able to evaluate the secondary parts of the speech since, except for lack of time, the message must be transmitted in its entirety. Therefore, the interpreter must have a reasonable amount of time to prepare the work, since it is necessary to investigate and know the speaker: his expression, the speed of speech, as well as, of course, knowing the object of the interpretation exhaustively.

Analogies between translation and interpretation

One commonality both professions have is that they suffer from a general lack of knowledge. They are not recognized professions since anyone can define themselves as a translator / interpreter and claim to have a good command of a second language. Obviously, it is necessary to carry out studies in both fields to learn the subtleties, the techniques or the ethical code that encompasses an important part of these two professions which, after centuries of history, remain largely unknown.

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