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5 Key Differences Between Interpretation and Translation

September 6, 2022

How do translators and interpreters play a role in your business? Do you need them? What’s the difference between these professionals? Let’s take a look at some key factors that play a key role. 

Today’s technologically savvy world has opened the door to new opportunities for businesses to expand beyond their borders into new areas around the world. It opened the doors to international markets full of interested customers, business partners, and buyers, creating an opportunity that’s for the first time well within reach. 

Yet, to accomplish this, it has to be possible to communicate effectively - which isn’t always as simple as it seems. Without the existence of language barriers, being able to understand how business works and what information customers need to make a buying decision is critical. So how does your company compete in an international market when language stands in the way?

5 major differences between translating and interpreting

When it comes to translating your message to your global marketplaces, both interpreting and translating are valuable tools. Knowing what these services are, how they work, and when to use each is critical.

#1: The Format

One of the key differences in translation and interpretation is the format provided. Interpretating focuses on spoken language. It is typically related to real-time communication. Translation services are text-based. 

#2: Delivery Method

Interpretating services happen on the spot, such as in person or over the phone. It may also happen through video. Most often, translation takes place later, such as through the creation of documents that break down conversations or documents. There’s often more time for translators to create high-quality translations.

#3: The Level of Accuracy

Translators are very accurate. There’s more time for information to be gathered and analysed. Interpretation has a lower level of accuracy in some ways simply because it happens in real-time. In a live setting, it’s difficult to create accurate results. Translators have more time to review and edit to improve accuracy.

#4: The Direction

Although translators are proficient in 2 or more languages, translators work in one direction. That is, they translate information from one language (referred to as the source language) into their native language (referred to as the target language). Interpreters need to be fluent in both languages. They have to translate, in real-time, in both directions. That takes a lot of skill and fluency.

#5: The Details

Interpreters need to have a better ability to capture the tone and infections in communication. They also need to be able to understand and communicate elements of the spoken word. They often do this through verbal cues. In translation, there’s less of this and more context-based considerations. 

When to Apply Translation Services: 

Translation services can take raw material in one language and turn it into usable information and data in another language. This is incredibly valuable in a wide range of environments. For example, contracts typically need to be translated from one language to the next so people can understand the terms. Perhaps a customer in another country sent a detailed set of directions for communicating a project need, and it needs to be understood by your team. You may be able to use a translator to help with breaking down that information into a formal document.

When to Apply Interpretation Services: 

An interpreter’s job is to be a facilitator in conversation that’s taking place in real-time. For example, this may be a necessary service to call on when you need to meet with a partner from another country. It may be necessary to turn to interpretation services when you need to speak to a crowd of people. This type of service may be helpful over the phone, using video remote communication, or in person. 

What Skills Are Necessary to Work as Translators and Interpreters?

In all cases. Language professionals are highly skilled individuals. They have bilingual proficiency and need to be able to communicate. They also are typically individuals who are detail-oriented and precise. 

Bilingual proficiency is critical. It is also important for these individuals to have a good understanding of the cultures of both audiences as well as good listening skills. Both professionals need to be good with meeting standards, understanding complex terminology, depending on the industry served, such as legal, medical, or business fields. 

Interpreters also need to have exceptional listening skills and good memory recall. They need to take good notes, pick up on non-overt cues, and communicate well with other people who could be customers. 

How to Choose Between Translators and Interpreters

When you need to reach out to business associates or determine if an opportunity exists for you to build a relationship with customers overseas, it’s important to weigh which type of service you need. Here are some tips to consider.

  • Do you need to communicate in real-time? If that’s the case, having an interpreter on hand in some format is the best route to take.
  • Do you need any form of written communication translated? That falls in line with what a translator can offer to you.
  • Do you need website content, software interfaces, manuals, or other types of materials communicated properly in another language? A translation service can help with this type of work.
  • Do you need notes from a meeting documented in both languages? If that’s the case, you can use a translation service. If you need real-time communication of this information, use an interpreter.
  • Do you need to complete a pitch to a client who may have questions? That’s a good reason to turn to an interpreter.

Understanding the differences in each of these areas is critical. In many situations, individuals need to have access to both services from time to time. Utilising a proficient service that offers comprehensive, accurate, and clear information is critical to building your global business and tapping into a larger range of customers. 

Contributors

Michelle Trazo
Author
Sophia Dickinson
Writer
Sophia is a writer and communications consultant with 10 years’ experience in the public service and not-for-profit sectors. She has also taught English in France and spent a year working at a local NGO in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. She is passionate about writing, intercultural communication and languages (she speaks French, Indonesian and is learning Spanish).
Contributors
Michelle Trazo
Author
Sophia Dickinson
Writer
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