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Overview of Professional Differences between an Interpreter and a Translator

By John Kennedy Subscribe to RSS | January 19th 2012 | Views:

There are some common mistakes that general people make regarding aspects of translation and interpretation at the professional level. No doubt, these two specialized professional domains handle high-level responsibilities at the international level. There is a need for allaying the confusions that emerge from these two words. Many people take interpreter as translator and vice versa. The following section will try to clear the confusions by pointing out specific work areas of these two different professionals.

From outside, the working worlds of both interpreter and translator may look similar. Since, majority of us are not accustomed with these professions in our daily life, it is quite natural to make this mistake. However, to speak plainly, it should be notified that while the translator is associated with pen and paper or the writing jobs, the interpreter lends his verbal service. There is a major difference between their job areas and execution style of their executed tasks.


A professional and qualified translator has not only the caliber to write accurately but also with élan. Words, expressions, rhetoric and other linguistic decorations should come through his/her quite spontaneously. Most importantly, a translator should manage the writing in multiple languages with equal proficiency. He/she enjoys flexible work periods, dictionary, books, online help and other vital resources. A translator enjoys relatively lesser pressure than that of an interpreter.


A professional interpreter carries a load of pressures, when compared with a translator. He is efficient enough to translate spoken words in different languages and pass them towards different directions verbally. Here it should be kept in mind that this language expert does not carry any reference materials. Irrespective of this limitation he is bound to carry on his verbal interpretation work instantly whenever any person speaks a word on the spot.

An interpreter needs to execute some challenging tasks as well. He is a virtual human bridge who diligently provides a strong platform to carry on a complicated discussion between several people. He is not merely a passive participant in the discussion. On the other hand his caliber influences the success rate of the meeting outcome. If the discussion between participating heavyweights turns ugly, resulting in heated exchanges of verbal words, he needs to keep his cool and control his emotion and showcase his rare talent, i.e. is showcasing his proficiency in top-grade diplomacy. No wonder, such verbal linguistic professionals enjoy great demand in the international organizations.

Work areas of an Interpreter

Work area of a professional interpreter is mainly divided into two sections. They are simultaneous interpreting and consecutive interpreting.

Simultaneous interpreting is a challenging task. It is associated with verbally translating the spoken words in 'real time'. International organizational/diplomatic seminars and meetings employ interpreters with proficiency in simultaneous interpretation. These professionals need to immediately translate the spoken words in other language as soon as they come out from the mouth of the speaker.

Consecutive interpreting is associated with court proceedings or face-to-face tete-a-tete between two individuals or diplomats. Individual speaker speaks few words and sentences and takes a small break so that the interpreter can translate them easily and pass on to the second diplomat or individual present at the meeting.

Interpreting is a challenging yet rewarding task that gives opportunity to interact with global leaders from different sectors.

John Kennedy - About Author:
The author is a well known language, translator, and interpreter. To know more about these services visit

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