The FAQ series: what is the difference between a translator and an interpreter?

I’ve been an avid networker since starting my translation business in 2012. When I talk about what I do, there are a few questions that pop up time and time again. This blog post series aims to answer those questions in detail. After all, you don’t always have enough time at these kinds of events (and, being passionate about my profession, I could waffle on about what I do for hours!)
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Interpreters work at events, conferences, etc.

There is one major difference between a translator and an interpreter: translators work with the written word and interpreters work with the spoken word.

So a translator may translate books, press releases, presentation slides, manuals, website content or even subtitles, whereas an interpreter may interpret at international events, conferences, in the courts, at international institutions and for the police. As you can see, these two roles are very different.
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Translators have the luxury of scouring dictionaries for the perfect word

The two professions are by no means interchangeable. I am not trained or qualified to work as an interpreter as this role requires tonnes of practice at hearing words and (sometimes immediately) interpreting them in another language. Interpreting is a psychologically demanding profession whereas my work as a translator allows me to go at my own pace, consult dictionaries and other reference works so that I can produce an effective text in English. Conversely, some interpreters prefer not to translate because they are familiar with the fast-paced world of interpreting and are not used to working with the intricate nuances of some texts.

So there you have it. Are you a translator or interpreter and have something to add? Are you a (potential) translation client and want to ask a question about the process? Leave a post in the comments or send me a message via the contact page!

This month in the translation and language-learning world…

The Guardian profiled three interpreters who have worked for famous faces.

Eleanor Muffitt explained why she’s had a go at learning so many languages.

Ian Henderson explained why you need more than just translation when launching your brand on a different market.

The BBC found 20 people who had lost their native language.

The National Law Journal wrote about the translator who revealed information Toyota would rather have kept under wraps.