5 Major Differences between Interpretation and Translation

Many people don’t see the difference between interpretation and translation. Both these types of translation are considered as communication in different languages, or changing one language to another, but in essence the main difference is the way of communication — a written or oral speech.

It is widely believed that an interpreter can act as a translator, and vice versa; these two professions, however, are not interchangeable.

In general, the main differences between the work of a translator and an interpreter are:

1. Time to perform

When the documents are translated in writing, the translator has time to read, re-read and, if necessary, change the style of the translated document. Then they can double-check the finished document, comparing it with the original version. A translator can use various resources to help him, such as dictionaries, spell check services and thesauri.

Interpretation is usually instantaneous. An interpreter must translate very quickly, without the use of auxiliary resources. In addition, it often happens that speech they hear is very fast, and the interpreter doesn’t have enough time to pause and plan translation.

2. Accuracy

It’s related to time and available tools; it is believed that written translations have a higher level of accuracy than oral translations.

3. Fluency

While translators and interpreters are bilingual (or, in some cases, multilingual) specialists, the language is used very differently.

As a rule, translators translate from a foreign language to their native language, one that is natural to them and on which they can easily create an adequate and accurate written text.

An interpreter must switch between the two languages spontaneously and often act as an intermediary between people. Interpreters should communicate freely in each of the working languages.

4. Number of people

While both translators and interpreters usually do their work alone, translators can also work on the same document in the team. In addition, as a rule, the text translated by a team of translators is still checked by the editor before submitting the work to the client. At the same time, the translator must rely only on himself or herself, although usually, with long translations, the interpreters work in a short time in turn, and duration of these intervals is determined by the intensity and subject matter of the text (speech, lecture).

5. Types of languages

Interpreters deal exclusively with living languages — the languages spoken by a group of people in the modern world. There are also translators who communicate in sign languages, and they can use a combination of speech and gestures.

Written translators, in turn, can work with living, dead and endangered languages. They should not work with sign language. Extinct languages are those languages that are not used in oral communication in the modern world. Examples include the Gothic, Lycian and Old Macedonian languages. There are also some languages that are used only in the modern world for solemn events and on which people don’t speak in their daily conversations. They are known as dead languages and include Pali, Latin, Coptic, and Sanskrit.

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