The Difference between Translation and Interpretation

While both translation and interpretation have the same purpose: making the information or content accessible in another language, there is one major difference.

Translation is done in a written format, while interpretation is oral. Translators, therefore, are excellent writers, while interpreters have great communication skills.

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Translation And Interpretation

They require an ability to be able to understand two or more languages and accurately express the content and information in the other language.

Translations need not be binary, but should sound natural without being too literal and wordy. The translator should be able to express the content in such a way that one cannot guess that it is a translation.

Source Language and Target Language
  • Source Language: is the original message or content
  • Target Language: is the resulting outcome after the translation or the interpretation.

Translation and interpretation work well if it is the native language of the translators and it is essential to recognize the cultures of both the source and target languages, in order to fully adopt the content.

A Language: The Native language of the translator/interpreter in which there is 100% proficiency.
B Language: The fluent language of the translator/interpreter in which all vocabulary, structure, dialects, and cultural influences are known.
C Language: The language may be just ‘workable’ for the translators/interpreters.

  • General Translation or interpretation is done in a non-specific way and does not cover any specialized vocabulary, cultural influence, or knowledge.
  • Specialized Translation or Interpretation, as the name suggests is specific to certain domains and fields of knowledge like legal, financial, medical, literary, scientific and technical.
  • Automatic or machine translation: Done using AI software and computers, this is without human intervention and is low in quality.
  • Machine assisted translation: is a dual approach where the machine does the hard translation work, and the human checks, refines and corrects the language and context.
  • Screen Translation: Includes subtitles and dubbing in native languages.
  • Sight Translation: When the source is a written document which is explained orally in the target language.
  • Localization: when the product or content is exported to a different country or culture,(like a software application), it is made ‘local’ by translating the dialogue boxes, documents, packaging etc.

Consecutive Interpretation: When a person speaks a sentence and pauses, and the interpreter then works on the content and speaks it in the target language.

Simultaneous interpretation: Is when the interpreter is working on his native (A) language, and speaks whatever is being spoken and broadcasts it to other listeners using headphones and a mic to provide the interpretation in the target language in real-time.

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