When it comes to the language industry, it is important to know if you will be need translation services, interpreting services, or both. The key difference between the two lies within the channel of communication you require. Translation deals with written communication whereas interpreting is a form of oral communication. You will need a translator if you are looking to have written communication such as legal contracts, medical records, website verbiage, newsletters, articles, or books in another language. Conversely, interpreters work in real time. If you need to ensure someone who speaks another language understands what is being said at a conference or meeting, or during a court proceeding for example, you will need to seek an interpreter.
Since translation focuses on the written word, a good translator will ensure the entire meaning of a text is rendered correctly when written in the target language. Translators must be extremely well versed in the grammatical and linguistic rules of both languages to ensure the message is transmitted appropriately for the target audience. Although the message will often not be transmitted word-for-word because of stylistic and lexical differences between the two languages, the meaning will always remain the same. A professional interpreter will also ensure the original meaning is captured when speaking the message into the target language, so he or she will also have an excellent grasp of both languages, just like a translator. However, since interpreting is carried out in real time, the interpreter must also have the ability to listen to the source message, and simultaneously or consecutively transmit the same message in the target language accurately.
A translator has the ability to research unfamiliar terms or ask the client questions, whenever possible, to ensure the most correct term is used during the process. An interpreter serves as a facilitator between the speaker and listener, and cannot pause to look up terms or interject his or her own understanding of the conversation during the event. It is often said that the speaker and listener will forget the interpreter is present during a conversation or event, since the interpreter will have been able to maintain the flow of the conversation/announcement without interruption or issue. A professional interpreter will interpret the message in first person, i.e. he or she will not say things like “He said…” or “She wants to know…” Instead, a professional interpreter will maintain the conversation by using the speakers’ statements, e.g. “I want to know…” or “Can you tell me…”