A Few Words

Translation and Interpretation: What's the Difference?

Posted by Elanex Marketing Team on Oct 10, 2014 9:30:00 AM

Generally, the difference between a single- and double-edged sword (beyond the fact that one sword has one edge and the other has two) is rarely understood or seldom explored until you actually have to use one. 

The same might be said for translation and interpretation, which are often confused as both involve adapting one language to another. 

On the surface, the primary difference between translation and interpretation is the medium: written vs. oral. People often interchange the two as both disciplines require highly skilled bilingual professionals with a passion for connecting people. In the same way that being bilingual does not qualify one to be a translator, speaking another language does not qualify one to be an interpreter.

But looking beyond the surface, many differences become apparent. Interpretation occurs in real-time, while translations are delayed. A translation requires an original text, which can be studied and improved using resources such as dictionaries and glossaries to produce an accurate document. Though interpreters aim to be as accurate as possible, often times they may choose to omit certain details in order to stay live. While both translators and interpreters adapt metaphors and idioms, interpreters must also capture elements such as tone and inflection. 

Furthermore, the differences between the two forms parallel that of the swords. A single-edge sword 1280510284-translator2handler must direct the sword in one direction just like the translator typically only works in one direction, translating into their mother tongue. A person handling a double-edged sword must fluently employ both sides; in the case of the interpreter, fluently interpret in both languages. But the specialization doesn’t end there for interpreters. Different settings and occasions require different types of interpretation, which is why it is important to consider the application when seeking interpretation services. The following describes how each form works, and when and where to use it. 

Simultaneous Interpretation: Simultaneous Interpretation requires accurate and complete translation, orally and at the same rate of speech as the speaker, with only a few seconds of lag time. An interpreter is usually seated in a soundproof booth where he or she clearly sees and hears the source-language speaker. The interpreter orally translates the information into a microphone, which can be heard by target-language listeners via earphones. This form of interpretation is used when the interpretation must be in real time, in an event with many contributors, or when the other forms of interpretation are unpractical.

• Consecutive Interpretation: This form is applied when the interpreter is in the same room as the participants and is interpreting both sides of the conversation, with the speakers pausing when the interpreter speaks. Consecutive interpretation is used when there is sufficient time available, with fewer participants, for elaborate agreements or negotiations, or simply when there is not enough space or budget for the booths required for simultaneous interpretation.

• Whisper Interpretation or chuchotage: Similar to simultaneous interpretation, this form has the interpreter sitting close to the listener and whispering the interpretation while the speaker continue to talk. Unlike with sound-proof booth interpreting, this method requires no equipment and can be carried out anywhere with no preparation. Chuchotage interpretation is often used in circumstances where the majority of a group speaks one language, and a minority (ideally no more than three persons) do not speak that language.

• Health Care Interpretation: Health care interpreters facilitate communication between patients and their physicians, nurses, lab technicians and other healthcare providers. When a patient and healthcare professional do not speak the same language, it is nearly impossible for even the most skilled clinician to provide high-quality healthcare services without accurate interpreting performed by a trained, qualified interpreter who is familiar with medical terminology. If family members, friends or staff who are not trained as healthcare interpreters try to interpret in this setting, errors in understanding and/or communication may occur, posing grave risks to the patient and significant potential liability to the healthcare provider or institution.

• Telephone Interpretation: Telephone interpreting is a service that connects human interpreters via telephone to individuals who wish to speak to each other but do not speak the same language. The telephone interpreter converts the spoken language from one language to another, enabling listeners and speakers to understand each other. Interpretation over the telephone most often takes place in consecutive mode, which means that the interpreter waits until the speaker finishes speaking before delivering the interpretation into the other language. Telephone interpreting is often an attractive option for business. It is relatively inexpensive and calls can be set up quickly, making it ideal for some healthcare and emergency service situations. However, most interpreters agree that face-to-face interpretation is preferred because they can see the body language and other non-verbal clues of the speakers.

In the same way you wouldn't call an electrician to fix a leaky faucet, now you know who to call when you need the services of a professional translator or interpreter.



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