What is the Difference between a Translator and an Interpreter?

November 4, 2019 Samantha

Here at Transcription City, we offer translation services, interpretation services, transcription services, voice over services, subtitling services and closed captioning services. What is the difference between a translator and an interpreter? Want to know more about translation and interpretation services? Then read on!

What is the Difference between a Translator and an Interpreter?

This is your Interpreter!

The other day I was sitting in the waiting room at the hospital, when a lady came in that wanted to check in for her appointment. In broken English she told the receptionist what she was here for. The receptionist checked her in and then walked her over to a gentleman, who was also sitting in the waiting room and introduced the two to each other. The gentleman was the interpreter that had been booked for the lady’s appointment, so that she would be able to understand not only everything that was said to her by the doctor, but also that she would also be able to tell the doctor of any problems that she was having.

While sitting there myself, I couldn’t help but overhearing the two receptionists talking and one asking the other: “What is the difference between an interpreter and a translator? Isn’t that that same thing?” That is a very interesting question.

What is the Difference between a Translator and an Interpreter?

First of all, yes, in some ways it is the same thing. One language is translated into another and back. That is a very expert job that takes a lot of training. The big difference is that an interpreter translates only verbal language and not written words. A translator on the other hand, is given a text that he or she then translates into another text. Sometimes a translator might even be given an audio recording that the translator may first transcribe in the original language and then translates it into the other. But sometimes this step is left out altogether and the translator transcribes directly into the other language. A translator is able to think about what they are going to write and may even have the help of a dictionary. However, some translators will only ever translate from the same language into another, but never the other way around.

But an interpreter has a much more difficult job at times. He translates a conversation between two or more people from one language to another and often straight back with a response the other person might be giving. A translator does not have the time to use a dictionary and has to rely on his own memory for vocabulary. It takes years and years to gain enough experience and it is such a skilled job that the brain is being so automated in the end that it has been said that an interpreter will sometimes translate an entire conversation but not actually remember much of it afterwards. This is because the skills that are being used to interpret are in a different part of the brain to the part of memorising a conversation. Clever brains we have!

So next time you see one of those interpreters in the background, maybe when two presidents meet on the news, you may appreciate a little more what they do everyday. Very clever people they are!

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Samantha

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