How To Know If We Need A Translation Or An Interpretation

The other day I had lunch with a colleague who works primarily in interpretations rather than translation, and he told me that a company had called because they needed a “simultaneous interpreter” for a job that would last three days. When he asked what the job was, if it was a conference (the most common type of event for this type of service) or something else, they said no, the job was to accompany an English speaking person in a hairdressing demonstration and that he would “translate” on the fly.

And what is the important part of all this? Well, I realize that there still is a lot of confusion about the figure of the interpreter and translator, and the corresponding and distinct tasks that each performs, which are not entirely clear to many people and businesses.

So I have made some brief summaries of each that highlight the main differences between these two types of service, although they also have things in common: the professional must always have an excellent knowledge of both languages.

When translation is needed

Translation is the process of accurately rendering the content of text written in one language into another language. Therefore, we are talking about text, text in different formats, but always text.

Thus, a company will use this service if you have content written in a language and want to translate into another language, for example, a book, manual, commercial emails, transcripts or websites (something of fundamental importance today’s globalized world).

The customer must know the rates, delivery times, etc., which in turn may vary depending on the material contained in the text in question, i.e. it is not the same to translate a courtesy email to workers as it is to translate a manual for a dialysis machine (whose precision and accuracy of translation could cause injury and even death).

When interpretation is needed

Unlike in the case of translation, we will use this service when the route of transmission is oral, that is, when we need to render in  another language what a person is saying in the moment. The environments in which this may occur are varied and depend on the characteristics of each type of interpretation required, i.e. it is not the same if we need an interpreter for a conference, a small meeting among international companies, etc.

Broadly speaking, there are four types of interpretation:

– Simultaneous: this is to reproduce the speech pronounced orally by one or more speakers in real time, without stopping or pausing. Typically, you perform this task from a soundproof booth, the interpreter listens to the speech through headphones and plays the language of the audience, who listen through receiving equipment.

– Consecutive: in this case, a soundproof booth is not necessary as the interpreter listens to the speech, the speaker pauses every so often for the interpreter to translate the message; the main difference with the previous service is the pause in the speech.

– Chuchotage: typically, the interpreter translates the speech directly to one or two people only, whispering in their ear.

– Liaison or accompaniment: the interpreter reproduces the speech of a speaker to a small group of people, the relationship between the interpreter and the client is closer and this service is often used in product launches, exhibitions or business lunches.

However, when contacting a translation company, good sellers must be able to guide and explain what is the best service that suits your needs.

(Versión en español: