Translation vs. Interpretation: What’s the difference?

For many, translation is a catch-all term to describe the conversions of spoken and written content into another language. For those who’ve heard of the term interpretation, it’s not unusual for them to confuse the two seemingly interchangeable words. At KUDO, we feel that it’s important to understand the difference between interpretation and translation to help us better appreciate these practices and professions. Both require extensive skill and cultural/linguistic understanding, but to put it simply- translation skills focus on written word conversion, while interpreters translate spoken or signed languages in real-time consecutively or simultaneously.

Keyboard and open book vs. and interpreter

Translation and interpretation may seem very closely related, but these two methods and facilitators of communication function in entirely different ways. For interpreters, the goal is delivering the meaning of what’s being said in real-time. To paint an accurate picture, it helps if interpreters understand the subtle nuances that all languages possess, they should also factor in the tone and body language of the speaker in question. Interpreters are often hired for high-stakes situations and regularly work for world leaders in public forums like the U.N. and behind closed doors in private meetings.

On the other hand, translation provides a more direct approach to bridging language barriers. Often tools like computer software can be used to facilitate the translation process. Translators work on information that is typically in written form, like website localization, prints, books, and subtitles. Like interpreters, translators must also relay the original text’s meaning, tone, and underlying intentions and account for country-specific subtleties.

Because of the oral nature of interpretation, interpreters must carefully consider vocal tones, voice quality, accents, body language, facial expression, sarcasm, irony, and other spoken-word factors. Although translators must understand cultural phrases, analogies, and idioms, the oral aspect of language is irrelevant to their process.

Another key difference between interpretation and translation is preparation. To prepare for an assignment, intense research is required on the interpreters’ end to ensure they are up to date on the subject matter, key terms, etc.; they must become experts in the subject. Translators don’t have to immerse themselves or read as much and try to become experts in the matter beforehand. They can start working on the translation and learn as they go. However, it is equally important to account for cultural and linguistic nuances that differ depending on countries, regions, or even cities. This is especially the case with localization, a thorough process of translating content and making it locally relevant to a target market.

KUDO’s specialty lies within the interpretation. Specifically, conference (or simultaneous) interpretation. We proudly host the largest network of professional interpreters, available 24/7 for meetings, webinars, and events on our first-of-its-kind interpreter marketplace. We give businesses and organizations, big and small, access to this once-exclusive service, making the process easy from start to finish.

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Tags include: global meetings, interpretation, interpreter

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