Interpreter vs Translator: Who’s Who?
Many people call us saying they need a translator when in fact they were looking for an interpreter. Probably most people know the difference between these two jobs, but there are some who use them interchangeably, although they should not. Below we will try to have a look at what these two jobs have in common and how they are different. In a nutshell, the translator deals with the written word, while the interpreter with the spoken message.
Interpreter vs translator: similarities
- they both work with a source language (from which they work) and a target language
- they both take the message from the source language and convey it in the target language
- both the translator and interpreter work solely into their mother tongue (with the exception of liaison interpreters – see differences below)
- they are both linguists
- they both need professional qualifications
Interpreter vs translator: differences
- a translator works with the written word, whereas an interpreter with the spoken word
- translators charge on a word or page basis, while an interpreter is paid by the hour or by the day
- all translators work into their mother tongue, but interpreters might have to work both into and from their mother tongue (those doing liaison interpreting – for courts, police, hospitals etc.)
- while translators have time on their side (they are not required to translate on the spot and they can use dictionaries), interpreters need to deliver the message either at the same time as the original speech (simultaneous interpreting) or shortly after (consecutive interpreting)
- their tools are different: translators use CAT (Computer Aided/Assisted Translation) tools, computers and dictionaries, and interpreters may use a notepad and pen to take notes, or headphones and microphone in a booth, and the most important thing – their memory together with their knowledge
I hope this post has made it clearer and easier for you to distinguish between a translator and an interpreter. Please feel free to add to the list and express your opinions.