Translation and interpretation are two very similar language services. They are both concerned with transmitting a message from one language (the source) to another (the target). The main difference between these two services centres on the means of support: translation is written; interpretation is spoken.

There are other differentiating factors, particularly time, since interpretation takes place at the same time as the words are being spoken (in the case of simultaneous interpretation) or immediately afterwards (consecutive interpretation). Unlike translations, interpretations cannot be edited or revised.

As a result, translation can achieve very high levels of precision, since translators are not subject to the same time limitations that affect interpreters.

Another factor that differentiates interpretation from translation concerns the aim or objective of the service in question. If a German machine manufacturer wants to publish its instruction manual in the United Kingdom, then it will need to be translated. However, if it wants to send one of its technicians to the United Kingdom to hold training and information sessions, then it must hire interpreters to make sure participants can follow what’s being said.

So, when we are thinking about publishing a text in another language, we are talking translation; and when we are thinking about real-time spoken communication, we are talking interpretation.

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