What’s the difference between translating and interpreting?

There are big differences between translation and interpreting, which laymen do not necessarily know.

Translators and interpreters translate written or spoken language from a foreign language into their mother tongue. The necessary language skills go far beyond the command of everyday language, and moreover, specialist knowledge of the respective topic is necessary.

Translators work with written texts, which they turn it into a written translation. They always work in their mother tongue and can specialize in various subject fields, including official documents, medicine, automotive, construction, manuals etc.

Interpreters translate orally what they hear from a source language into a target language. In most cases, they work from foreign languages ​​into their mother tongue, rarely in the other direction. Interpreters make communication between people of different languages ​​and cultures possible.

Interpreting can be further distinguished between simultaneous and consecutive interpreting. Simultaneous interpreting means the direct and immediate transmission of spoken words, while in consecutive interpreting the contents are first recorded (heard) by the interpreter and reproduced at a later moment (after the speaker finishes a sentence or paragraph). Other special forms of interpreting are court interpreting or sign language interpreting.

Translators generally have the ability to analyze a written text and formulate it in another language so that it is understandable for the cultural field concerned. This may not only affect the words, but also the whole text structure or the design of a text. Translators need to work extremely accurately and maintain details.

Interpreters have the ability to understand spoken texts quickly, analyze them instantly, organize their content in order of importance and then safely reproduce it orally in the target language. Interpreters practice strategies such as anticipatory understanding, recognition and structuring of statements and controlling one’s own lecture. Interpreters have to decide spontaneously and quickly and be able to work very well under pressure.

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