Translation FAQs

Translation, Interpreting - what’s the difference?

Translation is written, where as interpreting is spoken. Interpreting and translating are very different skills. Some do both, but not all. Interpreters can be asked to do sight translations if the text is:

  • Short (no more than 300-400 words)
  • Non-technical

This means that the interpreter will give a spoken rendering of the written text in the target language.

Some texts that might be suitable for sight translation:

  • Instructions on medications
  • Short non technical letters
  • Brief extracts of witness statements in court

There are two basic forms of interpreting-simultaneous and consecutive.

What is the difference between a simultaneous interpreter and consecutive interpreter?

A: Simultaneous interpreters are highly skilled. Simultaneous interpreting allows people to understand what someone is saying as they speak. It is normally used at major conferences where a translation service is available to delegates of various nationalities.

There are two kinds of simultaneous interpreting:

1. Conference interpreting is used in meetings for organizations like the United Nations or the European Union where interpreters listen through headphones to speeches in the source language and immediately interpret straight into the target language for the audience.

2. Individual interpreting is used at smaller meetings. It is often called a whispered interpreting, and the interpreter is located next to the target language individual - interpreting as the other person is speaking.

B. Consecutive interpreting is the most popular type of interpreting, as it does not require any specialist equipment or complex planning. It is also considerably cheaper than simultaneous interpreting. This involves the interpreter waiting for the speaker to pause allowing for translation into the target language. The interpreter repeats what has been said, but in the target language. This is often used at formal events such as court proceeding.

Interpreters specialise in either simultaneous or consecutive interpreting, although qualified.

I employ bilingual staff, why can’t they translate?

If you wish to portray an international image for your company you will be better served by a professional translator that will guarantee smooth, stylish writing. Being bilingual is not a guarantee of written fluency or skill in translation. Bilinguals speak two languages fluently, but are not necessarily good at moving information between the two particularly in writing.

Professional translators are first and primary writers, capable of producing texts that read well in the target language. The most important factor is that they are effective bridges between the languages they work in. They possess the necessary skills to render the original text, with appropriate style and terminology, in their native language.

Professionals versus Beginners?

Many companies faced with foreign language texts, the first instinct is the language department of a local college or university. As tempting as it may be you are running the risk of damaging your image. If you opt for student translators, which will be an inexpensive option, your risk will be even greater.

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