Many people don't know the difference between translators and interpreters. Find out here!


interpretation conference interpreting interpretacao conferencia People often see translators as people who understand a text in a foreign language and put it in their mother tongue. And this, both with oral and written texts. But is it that simple ?

The main difference between them is the communication form that is used. The interpreter uses his voice while the translator uses his quill pen (nowadays, probably his keyboard). Translators and interpreters are therefore found in very different places. The translator usually works at the office or at home and translates many different types of texts (books, websites, reports, users’ manuals, etc.). The interpreter is where the meetings take place and may therefore be found in many different places. Meeting rooms, congress rooms and parliaments are some of the possible examples but interpreters also work very often during visits and therefore, they also work at factories, farms or teaching establishments for instance.

Another difference between interpreting and translation is the “time” factor. The translator is lucky to be able to think for some time about a difficult word or term. Interpreters are not so lucky. They only have half a second to understand the idea and present it to the listeners. Interpreters are usually less dependent on terminology when it is a casual speech and what is most important is the transfer of ideas. The listeners need to be able to understand in a clear way what is being said to them, even if the choice of words isn’t exactly the same. However, when interpreters work with technical speeches, then terminology is even more important and it is not only necessary that they know the technical vocabulary very well, but also that they have it on the tip of the tongue!

It is important to know that in both jobs, it is not only about translating words but getting the ideas and intentions of the speech across. This is probably why a good machine translation program hasn’t been created yet. This kind of programs can easily translate words thanks to a good terminology database, but it can’t translate an idea nor have a text making sense. Translators and interpreters won’t be out of business any time soon!