As a language solutions provider, we know that clear communication is the first step to achieving understanding. We also know that some of the terminology in our industry can be confusing to someone who’s not familiar with it.

That’s why we wanted to take a moment to explain the difference between language translation and interpretation, as well as address some other frequently asked questions.

What Is Language Translation?

Language translation is the process of converting the written word from one language into another language in a way that is culturally and linguistically appropriate so it can be understood by its intended audience.

What Is Language Interpretation?

Whereas language translation refers only to the written word, interpreting refers to the spoken word. An interpreter’s job is to facilitate communication between two people who speak different languages, whether the conversation takes place over the phone, in person, or via video remote interpreting.

What Skills Are Required for Each?

Language translators and interpreters share many of the same skill sets. Both must be proficient in at least two languages and have a good understanding of the cultures for the intended audience, whether they will be reading or listening to the words. Both translators and interpreters typically need expertise in the industry for which they’re working, as well as the procedures, standards, and terminology associated with it. For instance, many interpreters and translators have additional training in the medical, legal, or business fields, which enables them to be proficient in their jobs.

Interpreters also need some specific skills, such as:

  • Exceptional listening skills and memory recall in order to remember words and convert them from one language to another in real time
  • Ability to take good notes
  • Excellent communication and customer service skills
  • Excellent comprehension of syntax in addition to grammar

Specific skills for translators include:

  • Ability to research words and concepts
  • Excellent composition and grammar skills in both languages

What Is the Difference Between a Bilingual Person and a Professional Interpreter or Translator?

A bilingual person is proficient in at least two languages. However, being bilingual alone does not qualify someone to be a professional interpreter or translator. Interpreters and translators need additional skills, including those mentioned above, to be effective at their jobs. Being a professional also means an interpreter’s or translator’s skills have been assessed using language proficiency tests, as well as industry-specific tests.

Tips for Choosing Quality Translation and Interpretation Solutions

Offering language solutions to meet the needs of your audience is no longer optional. In addition to being the right thing to do, it’s also required by law for many healthcare and government organizations. But with thousands of translation and interpretation solutions to choose from, how can you be sure you’re selecting the right one?

Start by looking at how a potential provider hires and trains its translators and interpreters. It’s also important to ask about their procedures for ensuring quality and protecting your information, as well as their technical capabilities and how they respond to support requests. To learn more about what to consider and what questions to ask, check out The Complete Guide to Selecting Your Language Services Provider.

LanguageLine® Can Help

We believe that being understood is an empowering experience. For more than four decades, LanguageLine has worked with healthcare organizations, government agencies, educational institutions, and other businesses to overcome linguistic and cultural hurdles. 

Please contact us so that we can learn more about you and the particular challenge you are facing and offer a solution that works for you.

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