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What is the difference between translation and interpreting? 

Today, a growing number of businesses attempt to successfully expand into international markets and approach foreign consumers who speak different languages, hoping to turn them into loyal customers and brand ambassadors. In a globalised world, it is fairly easy to trade across borders, even without the need of being physically present in the chosen market (e.g. a shop), as with the help of technology and internet, even small and medium sized companies are able to compete internationally. There is however one aspect of such venture, which businesses of all sizes and sectors must consider in order to increase their chances for success – and that’s language translation services and interpreting. 

Nowadays, consumers across the world expect to be approached in a tailored manner, which reflects their particular customs, beliefs and culture. In order to achieve just that, companies must carefully look into the market and understand the potential customers in-depth and the specific stimuli which drives their behaviours. 

One of the most important aspects of a personalised campaign, which would appeal to the market is language. In order to capture the attention of potential customers and create a positive brand image abroad in the long-term, company must clearly communicate their message in the native language of the market it wishes to penetrate.   

It is clear to see, that a rapidly growing number of business and organisations in the Untied Kingdom begins to fully appreciate the role professional language translations and interpreting services play within the corporate environment and the positive effect working with a translation agency can have on their business and revenue.

Nonetheless, a surprisingly large number of business owners still isn’t completely certain which particular language service they would require in order to meet their needs. In this article we’ll talk about the two most common and frequently required language services – translation and interpreting.

So, what’s the difference?

The difference between translation services and interpreting is quite easy to explain – translations deal with text materials, e.g. documents, brochures, websites, whilst interpreting focuses on the spoken word and is used during meetings, interviews, conferences etc.

For instance, if you need your company’s website, legal contracts or marketing brochures in a different language, you’d opt for a translation service.

If, on the other hand, you have a face-to-face meeting with a potential business partner who doesn’t speak English (or any other common language you would both be able to communicate in), you’d request an interpreter to attend the meeting with you.

Different types of translation services…   

We can recognise a number of different translation services. From a simple text translation, where the content of your material is simply translated word-for-word into the target language, to creative translations, also known as transcreation, a translation service usually used within the marketing environment, where a message is often completely re-worded, taking into consideration cultural aspects of your target market, without however losing the original meaning behind the message.

We can also break down translations by specific business sector it is intended for. For example, the approach to legal translation services will be completely different to a translation within the marketing area. It is also important to note, that not only the translation itself will differ depending on the sector it is intended for, but also the choice of a translator who will work with the content will depend strictly on the type of material and sector. Translation companies know, that each business sector has its own, specific lingo and jargon, and so a linguist assigned to the materials will need to not only be a native speaker of the target language, but will also need to have a first-hand experience within the sector itself, allowing them to reliably translate any specific terms.      

…and interpreting

Interpreting, also known as oral translation, can be broken down into two key segments – consecutive and simultaneous. 

Consecutive interpreting is fairly straightforward. Usually used for meetings or interviews, it consists of the translator (interpreter) listening carefully to the speaker and then translating into the target language consecutively so that the other person or people understand what was said. The interpreter then listens to the response and translates back. In a way, consecutive interpreting is usually a two-way interpreting. 

Simultaneous interpreting, as the name suggest, happens practically in real-time. In order for simultaneous interpreting to work, interpreting equipment must be used (headphones, interpreting booth). This type of language translation is typically used during events with a large audience, e.g. conferences, where the speaker on stage would speak in a foreign language, and the interpreter would then translate what is being said simultaneously for the attendees to hear through their headsets in their native language. Generally, simultaneous interpreting is a way-way translation. 

Can one language agency provide both services?

A professional agency specialising in language services will usually be able to provide both – translation services as well as oral interpreting. There are several agencies in the United Kingdom which offer both services to their clients. A great way to find an appropriate company, which will be able to help you with your specific needs, whether a text translation or spoken interpreting, would be reading reviews online on websites such as Yelp.      

When choosing the translation agency, it’s important however to look into it in a little more depth than just online reviews. Samples of work, client base, sectors and languages covered, or even social media presence are all factors which can help you in judging your chosen agency and making a final decision as to whether it is the company you and your business wish to work with. 

Can one linguist provide translation and interpreting? 

In theory – yes. Translation and interpreting services can be provided by the same person. Nonetheless, in reality, there really aren’t many linguists and language experts who choose to provide both services. Although each service requires a similar, in-depth knowledge of a language pair and often a good understanding of a particular business sector, the delivery of the service itself is so different, that it is extremely rare for a person to be able to provide both, and so linguist usually specialise in one or the other. 

Which one is more difficult?

When it comes to difficulty levels, majority of linguists would say that the most difficult and stressful out of all the services is without a doubt simultaneous interpreting, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Not only does this type of spoken translation require an extreme focus and language skills, but also great listening skills and a clear voice. Only a mixture of all these factors will ensure a high-quality interpretation suitable for a professional conference. In fact, simultaneous oral interpreting is such a straining and draining task, that for longer conferences there are usually 2 or more linguists assigned, who switch every 30 or so minutes. 

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At the same time, translating texts for the marketing sector is also a very difficult service to provide. It often requires a great deal of creativity and a wide-ranging knowledge about the target market and consumer. Although in many cases wording of a message in a campaign must be changed in order to be suitable for the target audience, the meaning behind it must remain the same, and so it’s the translators job to find an appropriate solution that meets both – the cultural as well as linguistic expectations. 

Which service is more expensive?

Text, or written translations, are generally speaking cheaper than oral interpreting. When translating documents or any other type of text material, the price is calculated on ‘per-word’ basis. This means that the final price will mainly depend on the total wordcount of your documents. 

The price however can also be affected by other factors, such as the language pair, type of translation (marketing, legal etc.) or your deadline. Some language pairs cost more than others and marketing translations are usually more expensive than a standard translation for the legal sector. 

The price of interpreting is calculated based on the total number of hours. Again, simultaneous interpreting is the more expensive service as it usually also requires rental of interpreting equipment (headsets, booths). 

All things considered, each of the described language services is different and used in different situations and context. Often, a business or an organisation will partner with an expert translation agency which will be able to provide both – translations as well as interpreting, ensuring that the company’s language needs are met, whether it requires written translation or an interpreter to attend a meeting. 

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