Many people use the word “translate” as a blanket term when referring to the transferring of meaning or content from one language into another.
The term “translate” actually refers to the act of transferring written content from a text in the source language into a text in the target language. The key here is that translation happens when meaning is conferred from text to text, such as when a book written in Spanish is translated into English, or when a birth certificate in Romanian is translated into German. Both the original document and the final product are physical, text documents.
While all professional translators are language professionals, not all language professionals are professional translators.
Why is it important to know what “translation” refers to? When soliciting professional language services, it is important to know what you are asking for–as is the case when requesting any type of professional service. Translation requires an entirely different skill set and time frame than its verbal cousin interpretation does. Because of this, many language professionals prefer to dedicate themselves to either translation or interpretation. As Hempel’s paradox has taught us: all ravens are black birds but not all black birds are ravens. The same logic stands in our line of work: while all professional translators are language professionals, not all language professionals are professional translators. So, if you need a document translated from one language into another, a translator is just what the doctor ordered! However, if you need someone to facilitate fluid communication during an international business meeting, you’re going to want to look for an interpreter.
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