Did you know the difference between translation and interpretation?

It is not uncommon to find people referring to translation and interpretation in the same breath, often confusing one with the other. While some translators may indeed be interpreters and vice versa, those who know the difference between translation and interpretation would agree, that they are both radically different activities. But what really is the difference?

Back to Basics

For starters “Translation” refers to the process of converting communication from one language into another language. The translation is usually of frozen texts or events, say a book or a recorded TV program or even an audio file of a person’s speech.

“Interpretation” on the other hand is a real-time activity. It has everything to do with the spoken word. An interpreter often facilitates communication between two people, by converting the language spoken by Mr A to that understood by Mr B and the reverse.

Some differences between Translation and Interpretation

Agreeably, both translators and interpreters have an in-depth linguistic and cultural knowledge of the languages they work with. They also have a well honed skill of communicating precisely. But there are a few things that differentiate them, for example:

  • Translators often work from their home, their job being a desk one. While interpreters work real time and are found at conferences, seminars and other live events where foreign delegates may be present.
  • Translators have good writing skills, while interpreters have a good verbal command over the language, a good memory and a clear speaking voice.

With cheap and rapid means of communication like the internet, there is a huge potential for the exchange of information and it is here that translation displays its real potential.

Information in regional and lesser known languages can be easily translated and disseminated to large audiences. The good thing about translations is that it can be easily outsourced.