It is very common to hear interpretation referred to as “translation” by people unfamiliar with the two professions. However, the two fields are very different.
Interpretation is the art of conveying meaning and content from verbal communication in one language into verbal communication in another language. The emphasis here is on the spoken aspect of communication. Professionals in the interpretation field are the ones sitting in booths and speaking into headsets at a United Nations conference, for example, or present at trials to interpret between monolingual judges, lawyers, witnesses, and defendants.
It takes years of practice and training to hone the skills necessary to be a good interpreter–simply being bilingual is not enough.
While translators can have up to weeks to meet a deadline, interpreters may have only seconds to hear, process, and understand content and meaning in one language before having to transfer it all accurately into the other language and communicate it to the waiting party. It is a demanding job that requires sharp focus, a flexible mind, and extensive language skills in both the source and target language. Interpretation is not for the faint of heart and it cannot be done well by just anyone. It takes years of practice and training to hone the skills necessary to be a good interpreter–simply being bilingual is not enough.
Why make note of the difference? When investigating language services and searching for language service professionals, it’s helpful to understand how these two professions differ. If you are in need of a text translation, you’ll want to look for a translator. If you need a communication facilitator, however, an interpreter is exactly what you’re looking for!
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