“We need a translator for an appointment next week.” “Do you have a Spanish interpreter to help with my documents?” These are questions we hear all the time when speaking with clients.
While using “interpreter” and “translator” interchangeably isn’t exactly an insult, it is incorrect. Although many people use the terms synonymously, the actual professions and skillsets needed for translators vs. interpreters couldn’t be more different!
Interpreters work with the spoken word.
Whether they are on-site with a client or appearing via telephone or video, they are performing their job in real time.
Interpreters are used daily for business meetings, court proceedings, medical appointments, events, and conferences. Interpreters that predominantly work in person with clients are always on the go! Their cars may double as an office and time management is a key skill to manage their busy schedules.
Translators work with the written word.
They transform one written language into another. Document translation takes time and is very precise and detail oriented.
While an interpreter can get creative with their word choices, a translator must take many more factors into consideration. These include things such as the organization’s preferred terminology and the target audience’s demographics. If they perform multiple jobs for the same client, they will likely develop a glossary of terms to ensure consistency. They will have an extensive collection of reference materials and often specialize in a specific target language.
A translator’s work has virtually no room for error. They typically work from home or an office and are often on their computer for hours on end. They must be extremely detail-oriented and time management is also vital for juggling multiple deadlines.
We hope this helps you understand our world of language services better and assists you the next time you need to book an interpreter or request a translation.
For quick future reference, we have summarized the difference between translation and interpreting into a simple infographic.
If you liked this post, then check out “Is There a Difference Between Machine and Human Translation“.
This post was originally published on June 21, 2018. It has been updated for freshness and readability.