Back to Basics: The Difference Between Translation and Interpretation

  |  January 31, 2018

What is the difference between translation and interpretation?

The technologically savvy world we live in has allowed businesses to expand their reach beyond the borders of their towns, cities, and home countries to international markets.

This often presents a challenge, as it may be difficult to communicate to a brand-new community in the way that a business from their home country would. How does your business compete in an international market when one of the first barriers—language—is the biggest?

When it comes to translating your message for a new global market, both interpretation and translation have a place. But do you truly understand the difference between these two linguistic specialities?

Let’s go back to basics and define the two specialties.

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What’s the Difference Between Translation and Interpretation?

Two terms that are often confused when seeking professional translation services are translation and interpretation. The difference between translating and interpreting refers to differences in how the languages are translated.

Interpreters translate foreign languages verbally and, most often, in a live setting. Translators also communicate in multiple foreign languages, but do so in writing and over a longer period of time to allow for editing and formatting.

The difference between translator and interpreter is that while both professions require a high amount of skill and an expert level in at least two languages, translation is the transfer of writing from one language to another, while interpreters process spoken languages.

Both translation and interpretation require the ability to communicate well, and while they might be somewhat similar, the two vocations require techniques that are vastly different in practice.

Let’s take a deeper look at the differences.

Interpretation

Interpretation requires a complete verbal command of both the source and target languages and is work that is loosely based on the original material, rather than verbatim translation of spoken content. Since many languages differ in their didactic usage and cultural intonations, a word-by-word account would be incorrect and would make little sense to the listener.

Interpretation is instead about the general concept of the material quickly condensed into culturally appropriate language. In a way, it’s paraphrasing. The original messaging remains intact, but there are subtle differences in the way that the message is delivered that make sense to the international audience you are targeting.

For example, a scenario that would likely benefit from a professional interpreter would be an introductory meeting held with a foreign company, where the two parties spoke different languages. The interpreter would be able to translate in real-time between both parties and use paraphrasing to get the message across. In this instance, it would not be necessary to replicate exact phrasing, and a more approximate conversation would be sufficient, provided the message and tone remain intact.

Translation

Your document translation needs are directly related to the languages and content type involved, and hiring a professional, top-quality translation vendor is your best option. The expectation for a written translation is that it is a functional and accurate method of communication between two languages. The process is complex, often highly technical, and the result of a coordinated, professional team working through a written medium.

Translation is defined by the written aspects of the project and is less instantaneous than interpretation. With professional translation services, your content is not only translated, but formatted correctly and attuned to the rules of your target language.

The difference between translation and interpretation is that translation is a much more exacting, sophisticated, and reliable method of communicating to your international markets than interpretation, which is, at its core, a paraphrasing of content.

An example that mandates translation over interpretation would be the documents required to legally work in a foreign country. It’s vital that your legal paperwork be translated, not interpreted.

Having a professional translate your content with the nuances of the foreign country in mind will ensure that your business adheres to the same professional standards as it does in your home country.

The Difference Between Translation and Interpretation: When Translation Is Needed

The marketing materials, manuals, device instructions, software interfaces, and other written content that you produce are crucial to the success of your business. Without correctly translated content, your messaging loses power, consistency, and continuity.

In many cases, the material in need of translation is technical, and hiring an outside translation professional ensures that both your message and technical details are being communicated correctly. The translation services offered by a professional translation vendor are going to be impeccably manufactured, formatted, proofed, and edited, as well as delivered on time.

Translation localization is a more advanced aspect of the translation process. Through localization, our professional translators and editors will ensure that your material is culturally relevant and completed with your target market in mind. You can be sure that your content takes the cultural and regional nuances of your market into consideration.

Reliable and accurate technical documentation is vital to your company’s success in international markets, and having experts translate, proof, and edit the material to be culturally sensitive is imperative to meet your objectives.

The translators at ILS have mastered over 180 languages as well as the technical aspects of your industry, which ensures that your marketing material, manuals, and website copy are delivered accurately and on time with your intended meaning conveyed.