Apr 22, 2014

Pet peeves of a language nerd: translation vs. interpretation

From MorgueFiles, by mconnors

Hello, fellow language nerds!

Today, I want to talk about the fact that so many people still think that translation is the same thing as interpretation.

The two skills may seem to be the same, but are, in actuality, two very different ones.

Not only that, but these skills appear in two wildly different kinds of people: an introvert perfectionist thrives as a translator, when an extrovert communicator is the perfect person to become an interpreter.

Let's straighten the concept out a little bit:
Simply put, translations deal with the written word,
whereas interpretation deals with the spoken word.

The translators sit quietly in their offices, translating, using dictionaries and resources at will—it is a perfect job for our introverts. They can sit there for hours, going back and forth, perfecting the phrase and making sure all the technical terms are Just So.

The interpreters are is usually out and about, in settings where their services are needed: in a booth at a conference, with headphones and microphone. Or standing beside the client whispering a rendition of the words being said in the client's ear, called chuchotage.

An immigration officer may call upon an interpreter to have a conversation with a person who might be seeking asylum.
A translator is often called, too, to translate the documents the potential asylum-seekers bring with them.

To interpret, you need to be fast as a flash, have a wild memory for the smallest details, and not be prone to losing your thread. Because if you lose it, in this setting? You lose your job.

To translate, you need to be a perfectionist and a nit-picker, and you will probably work mostly toward your mother-tongue, as it is nigh-on impossible to be an excellent translator in both directions.

So there you go, the difference between Interpretation and Translation.

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How about you? Did you know this?
Tell me about your pet peeve in our language jungle?!