Interpretation and translation are two closely related disciplines. However, they are rarely performed by the same professionals. The difference in skills, training, aptitude and even knowledge of the language is so substantial that few people can successfully do both on a professional level. In this article, Global Languages will introduce you to the differences between a translator and an interpreter.

Briefly, the difference between interpretation and translation is just the difference in the medium: the interpreter translates orally, while a translator interprets the written text. Both interpretation and translation presuppose a certain love for the language and a profound knowledge of more than one language.

The skill profile of technical translators

The differences in skills are arguably greater than their similarities. The translator’s main skills are the ability to understand the source language and culture of the country where the text originated, using a good library of dictionaries and reference materials to translate this material clearly and accurately into the target language.

In other words, although language and cultural skills are still critical, the most important hallmark of a good translator is the ability to write well in the target language.

Even bilingual individuals can rarely express themselves on a given subject equally well in both languages, and many excellent translators are not entirely bilingual to begin with. Knowing this limitation, a good translator will only translate documents in his native language.

And what is the profile of the interpreter?

An interpreter, on the other hand, must be able to translate in both directions on the spot, without using dictionaries or other complementary reference materials. Interpreters must have extraordinary listening skills, especially for simultaneous interpretation.

The interpreter for simultaneous translation is one in which the person speaks and through headphones the translator listens and translates simultaneously. He needs to process and memorize the words that the source language speaker is saying now, while producing in the target language the translation of the words that the speaker said 5 or 10 seconds ago.

There is also an interpreter for consecutive translation. In this case, the person speaks and pauses so that the interpreter can translate the message to the correspondent.

Interpreters must also have excellent public speaking skills and the intellectual capacity to instantly turn idioms, colloquialisms and other culturally specific references into similar statements that the target audience will understand.