Translation and Interpretation Services – Two Sides of the Same Coin


If you have ever spoken to someone over a bad telephone line or a mobile phone connection ridden by static and ghost voices, you will know how exasperating it can be. Communication needs to be clear and comprehensible.

Imagine our world today, when air travel has shortened physical distances, and the internet has negated air travel altogether. Business, tourism, culture, education, entertainment, and diplomacy are no longer limited by physical boundaries. But they cannot thrive if language is a barrier. Not everyone can be a linguist. This is where translation and interpretation services come in.

The work of interpreters and translators are somewhat similar, but they work in different arenas.

Translation services

Basically, translators interpret written text.

Translators must be proficient in the language of origin of the text (the source language) and the culture of the country where the source originated. They must then render an accurate translation into the target language.

Linguistic and cultural expertise is essential. The ability to write well in the target language is no less so. The translation should flow smoothly and give the feel of having been written in the target language originally.

Translations of material that is scientific, medical, legal, etc. require subject matter expertise. In such fields, a translator will have to be a good researcher too.

Literary translations need a different view: the soul, as well as the body of the matter, needs to be translated or the work will have no flavour.

Interpreter services

Interpreting is an oral form of translation where the interpreter listens, grasps the content, and then re-words the matter into the target language. An interpreter should be able to translate in both directions immediately; the luxury of dictionaries or reference materials is unavailable to him/her.

Interpreter services have to be expert, and they understand that to be effective, it is necessary to convey the meaning and the words in the context in which they were used.

Interpreting can occur in a variety of settings from conferences, meetings, diplomatic outings and interactions, and even over the telephone.

Interpreting can be of two types:

Consecutive interpreting means the interpreter listens to portions of the speech and then renders that segment in the target language while the speaker remains silent for that duration.

Simultaneous interpreting requires equipment to aid interpreting as the speaker delivers the speech.

Since interpreting services do not have the luxury of rewinding and referencing, interpreters must be thorough in the subject matter and intimately familiar with both cultures. Their vocabulary in both languages should be extensive, and they must be able to express themselves lucidly. Consecutive interpreting needs the interpreter to have excellent note taking technique too.

Both translators and interpreters need to have a strong love of languages and deep knowledge of more than one language.

The similarities

Interpretation and translation work involves a source/original language and a target language.

In both kinds of work, either the source or the target language is usually the mother tongue.

Both these jobs envisage extracting a message from the source language and conveying it to the target audience correctly and faithfully in the target language.

Interpreters and translators are essentially linguists

Both the jobs require professionally qualified persons

The differences

The main difference is that a translator works with the written word whereas the interpreter’s work is oral.

An interpreter’s work requires him/her to bounce between both the languages. This is not true of translation services.

Interpretation services do not have the luxury of time. Translation services have to be timely, no doubt, but there is time for referencing, consulting and trying out more than one version of translation to arrive at the most optimum product.

Translators use dictionaries, computer aided tools, etc. An interpreter, on the other hand, may use headphones, a notepad and pen for taking notes, and a microphone. An interpreter must also have a deep well of memory to draw from and the gift of instant recall to be effective.

The complexity of life today makes interpretation and translation a complex skill. If communication has to be effective, whether, for business, pleasure or intellectual pursuit, it cannot be taken lightly. Translation and interpretation services are fields of expertise and need qualified, trained and experienced professionals.


Source by Shreya Gupta

Leave a Reply