Translation and Interpretation are both noble professions dealing with the ability to effectively convey a particular message which has been delivered in a format not familiar with the targeted receiver or audience. To a layman, the difference between interpreting and translation is only the difference in the medium. To those not in the know, an interpreter translates orally while a translator interprets text. It is important however to dispel that myth from the onset by stating that there is a vast difference in skills, training, aptitude and language knowledge between the two fields of work.

The sharp line in skills differences between translation arises from the fact that while the translator heavily depends on understanding the source language and the unique culture of a particular country and then use dictionaries and other materials to render that material clearly and accurately into the target language, to the contrary the interpreter needs to have the ability to translate with immediacy without consulting dictionaries and other materials. Interpreters also need to have the ability to immediately grasp the spoken language and relay it to the target audience while a translator just needs the mastery of the subject matter being relayed, expertise can then be applied in translating a particular message at an ideal timewhich can even be hours, days, weeks or months later, the difference therefore lies in real time and delayed delivery. While both the interpretation and translation fields have to deal with the challenge of language intangibles like metaphors, analogies and idioms, interpreters are however faced with an extra task of capturing tone,infection, voice quality and other intangible elements. Interpreters with regards to training should also be exposed to intense training for longer periods of time because they need to be competent and fluent in both the original language and the target language which is not the case with translators because their ability to deliver heavily depends on using extra reference materials.

It’s clear to see from the above then that translation and interpretation is not just a matter of translators write and interpreters talk. The differences between the two are sharp and clear.

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