Language Translators and Interpreters

The Difference Between Language Translators and Language Interpreters

People have often wondered about the difference between a language translator and an interpreter. Although they appear to be one and the same, these titles do not denote the same profession.

The difference between a language translator and an interpreter is simple and boils down to the mode of expression. Interpreters convert spoken material from the source language into the target language orally, while language translators convert written material in the same manner.

While both language translators and interpreters work for the same purpose, i.e., to enable effective communication between two parties who don’t speak a common language, the differences in skills are greater than the similarities in purpose.

The key skills of language translators are the ability to understand the source language and the culture of the country to ensure that the resulting document represents the closest possible translation in the target language. Language translators must have excellent writing and analytical abilities to come up with accurate material; they must also know how to edit their own work .Language translators need to have different support tools, such as dictionaries, CAT tools and other reference materials, to deliver a clear and accurate written document in the target language.

Interpreters don’t have the luxury of consulting dictionaries and other reference materials as translators do, as they have to translate on the spot. Interpreters must have excellent listening and public-speaking skills. Simultaneous interpreters need to have speed, intuition and a good memory to memorize a full paragraph at a time without any loss of detail, and to select the right idioms and terms that the target audience will understand.

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