What is Translation and Interpreting Services?

Interpreting and translation are two closely related linguistic disciplines and are rarely performed by same people. The difference in skills, training, aptitude and even language knowledge are so substantial that few people can do both successfully on a professional level.


The difference between interpreting and translation is most importantly the medium used in facilitating communication in written form or conversationally. Translation is the written form whereas interpretation is verbal. The translator converts a written text from a source language to a target language. Hence facilitating communication between people groups of different cultures reading, sharing and understanding the said written document or information. For instance translating a text book written by a German author into Romanian for use in Romanian schools.

Thus, it is very important for a translator to be skilled in the written form of both the source and target languages. A skilled translator must have the ability to understand the source language and the culture of the country. Then, using a good library of dictionaries and reference materials. Then render that material clearly and accurately into the target language taking note of idioms and cultural nuances.

Translation vs interpretation

Interpreting is verbally enabling real-time cross-linguistic communication either face-to-face, in a conference setting or over the phone. Also it is the process where a person repeats what is said out loud in a different language. The interpreter listens to a speaker in the source language, grasps the content of what is being said,  then repeats it out loud in the target language.

Most translators use computer aided tools in their work. This helps in converting the source content into a file type that’s easy to work with. Whereas, interpreters have a fundamental proficiency in spoken communication. Interpreters often required to specialize in particular fields of expertise to ensure accuracy.

Both processes however, are essential in facilitating communication from a source language to a target language in their different capacities.

Business Meeting

What is Interpreting and what are the different modes/types of interpretation?

An interpreter is essentially a mediator facilitating  verbal communication hence breaking linguistic cultural barriers. If a French speaking business man meets with a Japanese client who does not speak French, an interpreter will facilitate their meeting.

Consecutive Interpretation

Stéphane Brizé (second from the right) speaking in French in Buenos Aires in 2019. Next to him, the interpreter (first from the right) waiting to interpret into Spanish.

In consecutive interpreting (CI), the interpreter starts to interpret before the speaker pauses. Therefore, the time needed is much lower (possibly half the time needed). Traditionally, the interpreter will sit or stand slightly behind the speaker

On occasion, document sight translation is required of the interpreter during consecutive interpretation work. Sight translation combines interpretation and translation; the interpreter must render the source-language document to the target-language as if it were written in the target language. Sight translation occurs usually, but not exclusively, in judicial and medical work.

When no interpreter is available to interpret directly from source to target, an intermediate interpreter will be inserted in a relay mode, e.g. a Greek source language could be interpreted into English and then from English to another language. This is also commonly known as double-interpretation. Triple-interpretation may even be needed, particularly where rare languages or dialects are involved. Such interpretation can only be effectively conducted using consecutive interpretation.

Simultaneous interpretation 

Simultaneous interpreter’s station (Televic Conference) at the European Court of Justice

Simultaneous interpretation (SI) suffers the disadvantage that if a person is performing the service the interpreter must do the best he or she can within the time permitted by the pace of source speech. However they also have the advantages of saving time and not disturbing the natural flow of the speaker. SI can also be accomplished by software where the program can simultaneously listen to incoming speech and speak the associated interpretation. The most common form is extempore SI, where the interpreter does not know the message until he or she hears it.

Simultaneous interpretation using electronic equipment where the interpreter can hear the speaker’s voice as well as the interpreter’s own voice was introduced at the Nuremberg trials in 1945[11]. The equipment facilitated large numbers of listeners, and interpretation was offered in French, Russian, German and English.[12] The technology arose in the 1920s and 1930s when American businessman Edward Filene and British engineer Alan Gordon Finlay developed simultaneous interpretation equipment with IBM.[13] Yvonne Kapp attended a conference with simultaneous translation in 1935 in the Soviet Union.[14] As it proved successful, IBM was able to sell the equipment to the United Nations, where it is now widely used in the United Nations Interpretation Service.

Whispered Interpretation

Interpreter (left) next to Swedish filmmaker Johannes Nyholm at Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema 2019.

Since time immemorial, whispering interpretation has been used, known in the trade by the French term chuchotage. To avoid disturbing the original speaker and those present listening to the original speaker, the interpreter’s voice is kept at a low volume. To do this, the interpreter and the person requiring interpretation must sit or stand in close proximity to one another. No actual whispering is involved as this is difficult to decipher as well as being too much of a strain on the voice: the interpreter uses normal ‘voiced’ speech at a low volume. Only one or at the most two people in need of interpretation can be accommodated, unless portable electronic equipment is used.

This form of interpretation puts a strain on the interpreter who has to sit for long periods leaning towards the person in need of interpretation.

Conference Interpreting

Conference interpreting

Interpreting booths at a conference by the World Trade Organization 2017

Conference interpreting refers to interpretation at a conference or large meeting, either simultaneously or consecutively. The advent of multi-lingual meetings has reduced the amount of consecutive interpretation in the last 20 years.

Conference interpretation is divided between two markets: institutional and private. International institutions (EU, UN, EPO, et cetera), which hold multilingual meetings, often favor interpreting several foreign languages into the interpreters’ mother tongues. Local private markets tend to have bilingual meetings (the local language plus another), and the interpreters work both into and out of their mother tongues. These markets are not mutually exclusive. The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) is the only worldwide association of conference interpreters. Founded in 1953, its membership includes more than 2,800 professional conference interpreters, in more than 90 countries.

  • Judicial Interpreting
  • Escort Interpreter
  • Public sector interpreter
  • medical interpreter

Sign Language Interpreting


The hostess (in red) and a sign language interpreter at a press conference in Taipei, 2007.

Two sign language interpreters working for a school, 2007

A sign language interpreter must accurately convey messages between two different languages.  An interpreter is there for both deaf and hearing individuals. The act of interpreting occurs when a hearing person speaks, and an interpreter renders the speaker’s meaning into sign language, or other forms used by the deaf party(ies). The interpreting also happens in reverse: when a deaf person signs, an interpreter renders the meaning expressed in the signs into the oral language for the hearing party, which is sometimes referred to as voice interpreting or voicing. This may be performed either as simultaneous or consecutive interpreting. Skilled sign language interpreters will position themselves in a room or space that allows them to be seen by the deaf participants and heard clearly by hearing participants, as well as be in a position to hear and/or see the speaker or speakers clearly.

Types of translation service:

  •  Legal translationThis is the translation of texts within the field of law. As law is a culture-dependent subject field, legal translation is not necessarily linguistically transparent. In-transparency in translation can be avoided somewhat by use of Latin legal terminology, where possible.In-transparency can lead to expensive misunderstandings in terms of a contract, for example, resulting in avoidable lawsuits. Legal translation is thus usually done by specialized law translators. Conflicts over the legal impact of a translation can be avoided by indicating that the text is “authentic” i.e. legally operative on its own terms or instead is merely a “convenience translation”, which itself is not legally operative. Courts only apply authentic texts and do not rely on “convenience” translations in adjudicating rights and duties of litigants.
  • Sight Translation 

    Sight translation can be defined as reading of a text by the interpreter from the source language into the target language, simultaneously, in a manner in which the content of the document can be easily understood by the audience.

  •  Financial Translation
  • General Translations
    Basic translations not requiring a specific field of expertise
  • Commercial Translation
    Commercial translation is similar to business translation. Translating documents such as company accounts, letters, annual report and other Business documents.
  • Medical Translations
    Medical translationThis is the practice of translating various documents—training materials, medical bulletins, drug data sheets, etc.—for health care, medical devices, marketing, or for clinical, regulatory, and technical documentation. Most countries require that companies and organizations translate literature and labeling for medical devices or pharmaceuticals into their national language. Documents for clinical trials often require translation for local clinicians and patients and regulatory representatives. Regulatory approval submissions typically must be translated. In addition to linguistic skills, medical translation requires specific training and subject matter knowledge because of the highly technical, sensitive, and regulated nature of medical texts.
  • Literary TranslationsLiterary translation is the translation of creative and dramatic prose and poetry into other languages. This includes the translation of literature from ancient languages and the translation of modern fiction so that it can reach a wider audience.

Technical and Scientific Translations

The differences in skills are arguably greater than their similarities. The key skills of the translator are the ability to understand the source language and the culture of the country where the text originated, then using a good library of dictionaries and reference materials, to render that material clearly and accurately into the target language. In other words, while linguistic and cultural skills are still critical, the most important mark of a good translator is the ability to write well in the target language.

Even bilingual individuals can rarely express themselves in a given subject equally well in both languages, and many excellent translators are not fully bilingual to begin with. Knowing this limitation, a good translator will only translate documents into his or her native language.

Ribosome mRNA Translation

Technical translation is a type of specialized translation involving the translation of documents produced by technical writers (owner’s manualsuser guides, etc.), or more specifically, texts which relate to technological subject areas or texts which deal with the practical application of scientific and technological information. While the presence of specialized terminology is a feature of technical texts, specialized terminology alone is not sufficient for classifying a text as “technical” since numerous disciplines and subjects which are not “technical” possess what can be regarded as specialized terminology. Technical translation covers the translation of many kinds of specialized texts and requires a high level of subject knowledge and mastery of the relevant terminology and writing conventions.

Technical Translation

The importance of consistent terminology in technical translation, for example in patents, as well as the highly formulaic and repetitive nature of technical writing makes computer-assisted translation using translation memories and terminology databases especially appropriate. In his book Technical Translation Jody Byrne argues that technical translation is closely related to technical communication and that it can benefit from research in this and other areas such as usability and cognitive psychology.

In addition to making texts with technical jargon accessible for a wider ranging audience, technical translation also involves linguistic features of translating technological texts from one language to another.

Translation as a whole is a balance of art and science influenced by both theory and practice. Having knowledge of both the linguistic features as well as the aesthetic features of translation applies directly to the field of technical translation.




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