When you’re doing business across international borders, there is often a need to communicate in other languages. As such, professional translation services are the cornerstone of many companies’ international empires. However, there are times when it would be more appropriate to use an interpreter, rather than a translator. As such, we’ve taken a look below at the key differences between translation and interpretation services and when each is most appropriate.
Broadly speaking, translation services deal with written documents, while interpretation services deal with spoken language. There are of course exceptions – such as the use of translators for audio recordings and videos – but if you have a written document, it is likely that it is a translator that you need. If, on the other hand, you are planning to hold a business meeting with people who don’t speak your language, then an interpreter would be best placed to meet your needs.
Translation professionals convert written copy (in the case of audio files and video, they usually transcribe the copy from the original file) into other languages. They can cover a wide range of industries and specialisms, from technical translation to medical translation. This means that it is important that you share as much information as possible about your translation needs with your chosen translation agency in advance. That way, they will be able to assign a translator with relevant skills and experience, based on the subject of your documents.
Interpreters can also specialise in the service that they deliver, such as those who choose to work in courtroom settings. Some of the most common types of interpretation services include simultaneous interpretation and consecutive interpretation. If you’ve ever attended an international conference and listened via a headset while the translation takes place live in a nearby booth, you’ll be familiar with simultaneous interpretation. It is this kind of translation that ensures that international bodies such as the United Nations are able to conduct their business efficiently. Consecutive interpretation, meanwhile, is better suited to a business meeting setting, where the interpreter can translate the conversation between two or more individuals as it takes place.
It’s entirely possible that your business will need both translation and interpretation services if you engage in cross-border trade, deliver international events or participate in other activities that involve the use of foreign languages. If you deliver events attended by people from overseas, for example, it is likely that you will need interpretation services in order that all delegates can understand the speeches that the presenters deliver. However, you are also likely to require translation services in order to deal with everything from delivering the speakers’ slides in other languages to handling enquiries in the run-up to the event. Enquiries made in person on the day, meanwhile, are more likely to require an interpreter if you are answering them in person.
Whichever service you need, thorough preparation is key to success. The better informed your language professionals are, the better equipped they are for the task at hand. This is particularly true in the case of interpreters, as they often don’t have the time to double check things in the same way that translators do. This means that interpreters need to have a thorough understanding of the words that they are required to convey, in order that they can comfortably keep pace with the speech or conversation as it takes place.
Both translation and interpretation are specialist skills. They require not only fluency in two (or more) languages, but also an incredible amount of attention to detail. If your company needs to deliver documents, presentations or anything else in another language, it’s important to engage with a translation and/or interpretation agency as early in the process as possible. Tomedes’ project managers are happy to discuss this in more depth, should you need further information or guidance.
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