All News

February 28, 2018 |

5 Differences Between Translators And Interpreters

Translation and interpretation are both language services that require highly-qualified linguists and specialists. Yet, these two professions aren’t one and the same. The differences between translators and interpreters cover a wide range of aspects, from the tools the specialists use to the environment in which they work.

Knowing these differences can help you to ask for the right professionals for your projects. Check these five differences between translators and interpreters, to learn more about these professions.

1. The Translator Writes. The Interpreter Speaks

In a nutshell, if you want to translate written content, you need a translator. If you’re looking for a person to translate live conversations and discussions, you’ll have to hire an interpreter.

Translators work with technical documents, medical papers, literature or any other type of written content. This can also include websites, video games and even code strings. Depending on the nature of your content, you may need to hire a specialist in the niche – Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).

Translators receive the content in the original language and, depending on the dimensions of your project, they will come up with a translated (and localized) version of your content for the target language you desire.

Interpreters work during conferences, consultations, press conferences, presentations and other international events. Depending on the type of interpreting services you need, you’ll have to hire one, two, or more interpreters to make sure all participants at your event take part in discussions.

Interpreters listen to spoken messages and translate on the spot, making communication possible between people who speak different languages. Sometimes, they even travel with their clients, to guide them during international events and help them overcome cultural and language barriers.  

2. Translators and Interpreters Use Different Tools

From this point of view, translators are more fortunate than interpreters. They can use dictionaries, glossaries and CAT tools to find the exact meaning of a word. Thanks to automation, translators have access to information that helps them to work faster and to come up with accurate translations.

On the other hand, interpreters must rely on their memory when translating. All they can do is take some notes during the conference to remember the right sequences to translate. In most cases, interpreters receive glossaries of terms and information about the event, as well. This helps them to prepare for the event. But interpreters can’t use them while doing the actual translation.

During large events, interpreters also use microphones and headphones. This way, participants speaking multiple languages have access to translated information without disturbing others.

Both translators and interpreters need context to provide accurate services. So, when hiring language specialists, make sure they receive all the information they need to do their job – specific terminology, industry data, background information about all topics and texts to translate.

3. Translators and Interpreters Are Paid Differently

Another important difference between a translator and an interpreter refers to the way they are paid.

Translators charge on a per word, per page, or per character basis. Generally, it’s easy to establish the amount to pay by simply measuring the original content – the number of pages, words or characters (with or without spaces). In this case, you get to know right from the beginning how much your translation will cost.

Events have well-organized schedules. So, interpreters usually charge on a per hour basis, as they have strict working hours. Even in this case, you can predict the costs before the event.

4. Interpreters Need Different Qualifications From Translators

Most translators and interpreters need to be specialized in the niche they’re translating, especially in the areas that require 100 percent accuracy, such as technical, financial or medical translations. Legal translations and interpreting services can also require a certification of specific skills.

Besides these, translators and interpreters develop different skills to meet their clients’ expectations.

Translators should be native speakers of the language they’re translating into. If they’re providing localization services, they should live in the target country, as well. They should be proficient in the original language, to be able to capture the right meaning of your message and rewrite it accurately in the target language.

Translators must have great writing skills to be able to craft the right message – rewriting according to language’s rules of style, grammar and syntax, but without damaging the original meaning of the text.

Interpreters should be bilinguals for both simultaneous and consecutive interpreting services. They need similar competencies in both the original and the target language. This is because, in most cases, events involve interactive discussions between participants. So, both languages are, one at a time, the original and target language during the presentations.

Interpreters need to be able to switch between tasks within seconds – listen in one language, memorize, translate and speak in a different language. They should have a deep understanding of the cultural dimension of the languages they work with, as well. Interpreters also need public speaking skills, besides specific knowledge in their domain.

5. Translators Have The Chance to Fix Errors

An important difference between translators and interpreters can be found in the time they have (or don’t have) to finish their tasks.

Translators have deadlines, but they can stop and restart working whenever they want. They get to go back and forth within the original text, to check for missed meanings or words. They have the time to proofread the final content and to fix any errors.

Interpreters have one shot at getting things right. They need to remain focused during the events to deliver accurate interpretations on the spot. There’s no time to come back and ask for additional information. And they can’t fix errors, as they don’t get to proofread their work.

Generally, one interpreter can work for up to 30 minutes without interruption. This is why you need two or more interpreters for the same language during long events.

Despite these differences, translators and interpreters share many things in common. They all work hard to provide high-quality services for their clients. And, they improve their skills on a permanent basis, to remain efficient and to deliver accurate services.