So you find yourself with a client on a different continent, living in a disparate society, eating food you have no access to, running on a different clock, and speaking a language that doesn’t even share roots with your native tongue. Attempting small talk seems to be trouble enough, and you realise it’s time for some assistance. Leave the linguistic barrier in the hands of a professional and you can get on with business without a problem.

Before you place the fate of your business deal in someone else’s hands, first make sure you get the professional you want.

Do you need a translator or an interpreter? Aren’t they the same?

Studies about translation and interpretation show that evidently the two skills are not exactly synonymous. Interpreting and translating are closely related disciplines in linguistics, but there are distinct differences in what the two skills require from those performing at a professional level.

In simple distinctions, one could say the biggest difference is the presentation: an interpreter translates orally, and a translator interprets written text. The discrepancies, however, are much more evident in detail.

Interpreters must be able to translate between two languages on the spot and paraphrase verbally. In order to paraphrase properly, it is crucial that interpreters have a deep understanding and knowledge base on the subject matter. Highly qualified interpreters are often difficult to find because interpreting must happen live and essentially impromptu, meaning the interpreter must also have skills in presentation and clear communication.

When dealing with multiple languages, multilingual interpreters are extremely useful because of the ability to communicate among multiple languages on the spot. For example, interpreters are needed in court rooms, conferences, business meetings, live presentations, or any situation where immediate, oral translation is needed.

Translators work with written text, which requires an understanding of the source language and culture, but above all, the translator must write well in the target language. It’s likely that translators will reference material and external sources to find proper discourse in the target language translation. For this reason, translators should normally only translate into their native language.

Translators have the benefit of time and revision on their side. When working with a written document, translators can (and should) reference alternate materials to verify their translation is accurate, and should have ample time to review the content to ensure accuracy.

Knowing the differences between translating and interpreting can help one decide who to seek for a project, as properly understanding context among languages is crucial. Even if one can figure out which kind of expert to engage, the bigger challenge is ensuring that the linguist is actually an expert.

At Asian Absolute, our team will work with clients to ensure that the proper, trained linguist is assigned to each project. We work with our clients individually to craft translations that fit the project’s needs, in translation and interpretation. Please contact us for further information or to discuss your requirements.