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The Difference Between Translation and Interpretation

Many people think that translation and interpretation refer to the same thing, but there are differences between the two. The general purpose of translation and interpretation is the same, and that is to make the meaning of a message in one language comprehensible in another language. However, the methods of communication used are different. Translation involves translating written texts and documents, while interpretation deals with oral communication.

Both translators and interpreters need to have a good command of the languages that they specialize in, as well as a profound understanding of the cultures of the people who use those languages. Since their primary objective is to convey the meaning of messages, they have to be able to communicate clearly and accurately, so that the messages will be appealing and beneficial to the recipients. Nonetheless, the specific skills that they need to perform their tasks effectively, as well as their working environments, are different.

Translators can work on a wide variety of texts and documents, including articles, essays, books, reports, business documents, medical records, legal documents, instruction manuals, subtitles, web content, or any other kind of written information. They are not required to be physically present when their translations are delivered to clients. As such, they can choose to work from home and email their completed translations to their clients, or in the office of a translation agency.

Translators need to possess excellent reading and writing skills, so that they can fully comprehend the information that is presented in original texts and documents, and translate it accurately to other languages. Good translators are usually perfectionists, and they will pay particular attention to the tone and style of the source documents as well as the terminologies that are used. By doing so, they do not only convey information correctly, but also the personalities and writing styles of the writers of the original documents. They have to be able to translate texts and documents in such a way that they are appealing to specific audiences. There are many different specializations in the field of translation, and they include administrative translation, business translation, technical translation, medical translation, legal translation, literary translation, and others.

Interpreters, on the other hand, perform their work in real-time environments, and they are in direct contact with speakers and audiences, mediating between the two. They are required to convey oral messages from one language to another, with great accuracy and spontaneity without access to reference material or time for research (it is very important for the interpreter to prepare for each assignment). They need to have a very strong voice, as well as excellent reflexes and memory. Unlike translators, they do not relate the meaning of the source message word-for-word. Usually, they have to render sentences in a completely different way without changing their meanings. As such, they need to have a very strong grasp of both the source and target languages, and feel equally comfortable communicating in either language. There are lots of events that require the services of interpreters, including business meetings, conferences, intergovernmental meetings, sports events, charitable events, religious meetings and crusades, and others. Interpreters who work for governments and large corporations need to have very good diplomatic skills.