Introduction to Translation and Interpretation

Introduction to Translation and Interpretation

What are they? What's the difference?

By Laura K. Lawless,

Introduction to Translation and Interpretation

Translation and interpretation are the ultimate jobs for people who love language. However, there are a lot of misunderstandings about these two fields, including the difference between them and what kind of skills and education they require. This article is an introduction to the fields of translation and interpretation.

Both translation and interpretation (sometimes abbreviated as T + I) require superior language ability in at least two languages. That may seem like a given, but in fact there are many working translators whose language skills are not up to the task. You can usually recognize these unqualified translators by extremely low rates, and also by wild claims about being able to translate any language and subject.

Translation and interpretation also require the ability to accurately express information in the target language. Word for word translation is neither accurate nor desirable, and a good translator/interpreter knows how to express the source text or speech so that it sounds natural in the target language. The best translation is one that you don't realize is a translation, because it sounds just like it would if it had been written in that language to begin with. Translators and interpreters nearly always work into their native language, because it's too easy for a non-native speaker to write or speak in a way that just doesn't sound quite right to native speakers. Using unqualified translators will leave you with poor-quality translations with mistakes ranging from poor grammar and awkward phrasing to nonsensical or inaccurate information.

And finally, translators and interpreters need to understand the cultures of both the source and target languages, in order to be able to adapt the language to the appropriate culture.

In short, the simple fact of speaking two or more languages does not necessarily make a good translator or interpreter - there's a lot more to it.

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