We Translate On Time

The Difference Between Interpreters and Translators

July 2nd, 2019

Often, people confuse the roles of translators and interpreters; however, they have distinctly different roles and they use different skills. Due to the word’s “translator” and “interpreter” being used interchangeably the two professions have become blurred and synonymous with one another.

The principle skill of translators are that they have the ability to comprehend the source material, cultural references and social references of the country where the source text originates. Then, through a combination of recourses they are able to translate the source text to a comprehensive and accurate text in the target language. Translators work with any information that is in the written form.

In contrast, an interpreter usually has to be able to translate in both directions without delay and without the aid of dictionaries or other referencing materials. Interpreters must have excellent comprehension skills and must be able to process information very quickly. Often, an interpreter much have very good presentation skills, be a good public speaker, understand cultural idioms and references. 

Translators must be able to grasp the context and produce a text with similar intent. Interpreters must listen to speakers, grasp the context and then deliver the intent of the source language in the target language. Both translators and interpreters need to understand the context of the source text to be able to deliver accurate results.

What makes a really good translator is their mastery of the target language. They must have a very good understanding of their target language and they must understand different registers of their target language. When interpreting, it shouldn’t be word-for-word as the result would not make sense to the target audience. Grammar between languages are often different therefore, phrases might have to be paraphrased. The message can be delivered either in unison with or immediately after the original speech—with no help from scripts, dictionaries, or other reference materials. An interpreter’s only resources are experience, a good memory, and quick reflexes.

One of the key differences between the two are timing. Translators will have time to translate documents on the spot whereas, interpreters have to do it do it almost instantaneously.  The level of accuracy also differs. Translators usually have a higher level of accuracy than interpreters because of the amount of time they have to translate. Interpreters may aim to have a high level of accuracy; however, it is inevitable that some information might been lost because of the speed of processing and delivery. 

In conclusion, although, both translators and interpreters work with changing a source language to a target language, translators work with written language and interpreters work with spoken language.



by Joshua Binfor