Know the Difference: Translators Vs Interpreters

While many argue that interpretation is more difficult than translation, I find that the two professions shouldn’t be compared. Each has its own set of skills and requires a fair amount of know-how.

Also, while others argue than only people who studied interpretation get to be called “interpreters”, and as such, only people who studied translation get to be called “translators”, with time, I have come to admit that some bilinguals (or polylinguals) do a really good job translating, as sometimes it all boils down to their general knowledge and level of familiarity with the culture at hand. However, my “oldschool” mentality still makes it hard for me to call someone a translator if they do not have a degree in translation (maybe it’s because I studied and worked hard for 4 long years to get my degree?)

On the other hand, I think it is Ok for a translator to be called an interpreter even if they do not hold a degree in interpretation. It is not a double standard thing. It’s just that translation is the basis. Interpretation is, after all, a form of translation: the simultaneous one.

I do not hold a degree in interpretation, but I am an interpreter and have had several interpretation assignments.

Moreover, even interpreters are sometimes called translators. So, there you have it.

The graphic below shows the difference between a translator and an interpreter. It’s pretty accurate.

translate interret

While translators take their time, it doesn’t mean that interpreters are better. For example, I don’t think interpreters would do a good job interpreting a literary text. Improvising a simultaneously translated poem with rhymes and all on the spot? Boy, I’d like to see that one day!

With all that was mentioned above, I must admit: I may hold a translation degree, but deep down at heart, interpretation is my passion in life!

Now I will leave you with the following hilarious sketch about interpretation (simultaneous translator at a business conference). Enjoy!


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