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Interpretation vs Translation: How Are They Different?


In a tech-savvy world where communication tends to be the key to everything, it is important to understand the difference between interpretation and translation to communicate effectively. Both of these concepts are considered alike; however, the thorough elaboration of these terms outlines differences in various aspects.


1- Delivery

Interpretation is spoken information. It takes place in real-time, which means that it is live, and delivered either instantaneously or immediately after the original speech, without the aid of reference materials. In other words, the information is listened to in conferences, meetings (over the phone or through video calls), legal proceedings, live coverage on TV, etc.


Translation is written information. The person giving the information and the person receiving the information do not have to be in the presence of each because the information is read. Unlike interpreters, translators can rely on the support of dictionaries, softwares, computer programs, and reference materials to deliver the translated materials.


2- Content

Interpreters have to transpose the source language while keeping it within the context; therefore, idioms, colloquialisms, and other references, that are culture-specific are rephrased so that the audience can properly understand the message. In addition, the voice quality, inflections, tone, and all the unique elements of spoken words must be captured by the interpreters, and they should convey these verbal cues to the audience.


Translators must read each word carefully and produce an exact and unambiguous translation. In addition, the content must mirror the language source's content and format; this is particularly crucial in technical, medical, and legal translations. In general translations, the content must stay faithful to the original text while having a natural flow in the target language.


3- Skills

Interpreters must:

· have sharp memory.

· be able to work under pressure.

· have confidence.

· be able to multitask.

· have extraordinary listening ability.

· have public speaking skills.

· have in-depth knowledge of the topic or field.

· have intimate familiarity of both cultures (idioms, colloquialisms).

· have substantial vocabulary in both languages.

· have extraordinary note-taking techniques.


Translators must:

· be detail-oriented.

· be patient.

· have strong grammar and punctuation skills.

· have creative writing skills.

· have deep knowledge of both cultures.

· have analysis and research skills.

· be self-motivated.

· have personal and professional integrity.

· have Computer skills.

· have time management skills.


Interpretation and translation are both connected to languages and require effort, experience, and language mastery. However, they differ in medium and skillsets; that is why it is rare that you can find one person capable of performing both jobs at the same level.

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