Thai Language Center : The First Thai Language Institution in the San Francisco Bay Area
Thai Language Center : The First Thai language institution in the San Francisco Bay Area


    The Different of “Interpreter & Translator”
 By “P. Moral”

     Interpreter & Translator
     To explain what interpreters do it is worthwhile to start by discussing the differences between interpreting and translation
      On the surface, the difference between interpreting and translation is: the interpreter translates orally, while a translator interprets written text. Both interpreting and translation presuppose a certain love of language and deep knowledge of more than one tongue.

      However, the differences in the training, skills, and talents needed for each job are vast. The key skill of a very good translator is the ability to write well, to express him/herself clearly in the target language. That is why professional translators almost always work in only one direction, translating only into their native language. Even bilingual individuals rarely can express themselves in a given subject equally well in two languages. And many excellent translators are far from being bilingual - they may not be, and need not be, fluent speakers of the source language (the language of the original text being translated). The key skills of the translator are the ability to understand the source language and the culture of the country where the text originated, and, using a good library of dictionaries and reference materials, render that material into the target language.

      Forms of Interpreting
An interpreter, on the other hand, has to be able to translate in both directions, without the use of any dictionaries, on the spot.

      There are two types of interpreting: consecutive and simultaneous.

     Consecutive Interpretation
     In “consecutive interpretation”, speakers pauses every few sentences and then allow the interpreter to translate what was said before the conversation continues. Such interpretation requires either remembering the fragment or taking notes. It is appropriate for one-on-one meeting and for small informal group interpretation like depositions, interviews, meetings, court proceedings, medical assessments, or anywhere else you may need to communicate in a different language. Consecutive Interpretation is also used at for question and answer periods at conferences or any other meeting. It is a comparatively slow process, because all contributions to the conversation are repeated in real time.

      Consecutive interpretation, in which the interpreter waits until a complete statement has been spoken and then begins interpreting (so only one person is speaking at a time), is used primarily to interpret witness testimony, a situation in which everyone in the courtroom needs to hear the interpretation. Simultaneous interpretation is generally considered inappropriate for witness testimony--unless the courtroom is equipped with wireless equipment for that purpose--because hearing two voices at once is too distracting. In your work as a court interpreter, you will find that simultaneous interpretation is called for much more often than consecutive, because most cases are settled without a trial. Nevertheless, you must be prepared to perform consecutive interpretation at any time.

      When you are interpreting a witness' testimony into English, your version is the only record of what that witness said. Therefore, a very high standard of accuracy prevails in consecutive interpretation. Not only must you convey the content of the source language message, but you must also convey structural elements of that message that are not contained in the words: pauses, tone of voice, stress, etc. Many interpreters regard consecutive as the most difficult mode of interpreting because it is so hard to retain all of these aspects of the source language message, particularly when a question or answer is very lengthy or is not entirely coherent (an unfortunate fact of life in court interpreting).

     Simultaneous Interpretation
In “simultaneous interpretation”, the interpreter is speaking at the same time as the speaker. This type of interpretation involves special equipment which allows interpreters to hear the speaker directly through headphones. Generally, the interpreter sits in a special booth or in a sound proof room and his or her voice is transmitting to small receiving group which are given out to each of the event member. From a soundproof booth, interpreters immediately translate the voice into the target language. It is useful in conferences, presentations, seminars, negotiation sessions, etc.

      Simultaneous Interpretation is a process which allows people to communicate directly across language and cultural boundaries using specialized technology and professional interpreters who are trained to listen to one language while speaking simultaneously in another. Simultaneous Interpretation differs from other types of interpretation , and from translation, which refers to the written word.

     Simultaneous Interpretation was first used at a conference of the International Labor Organization in Russia in 1927. The general public was introduced to simultaneous interpretation as a communication tool at the Nuremburg war crime trials beginning in 1945. The United Nations is perhaps the best known institution which regularly relies on this form of interpretation to allow its members to communicate in any of the six official languages. Because of advances in technology and the development of special training programs for interpreters over the last 25-30 years, simultaneous interpretation is now available at reasonable cost for international events, conferences and meetings of all kinds and sizes.

      How it works
      The interpreters sit in small sound isolation booths in the back of the conference room and listen to the conference proceedings on headsets while simultaneously interpreting into a microphone. The interpretation is broadcast via a wireless system to the delegates who listen on small receivers with earphones. The receivers are multi-channel so the delegates can select the channel that corresponds to the language they wish to hear.

     About Simultaneous Interpreters
      Simultaneous interpretation is a unique skill that requires far more than the ability to speak multiple languages. Simultaneous interpreters have years of highly specialized education and training, the rare talent of being able to listen to one language while speaking another, and knowledge of terminology in tremendously varying fields. The professional circle of conference-level interpreters is therefore extremely small -- there are only 3000-4000 in the world for all languages and many are employed by international organizations. Many free-lance interpreters are booked for events around the world months in advance.

     Why use Simultaneous Interpretation
      Simultaneous interpretation has been a key factor in facilitating communication among different cultural and linguistic groups, thereby contributing to the establishment of the modern global economy. The simultaneous interpretation medium delivers a very important message: that the complete involvement of each delegate is highly valued and essential to the success of the conference. Simultaneous interpretation is necessary for effective communication in many situations, and is often expected by conference delegates.

     Qualifications of a Good Interpreters

  • Knowledge of the general subject of the speeches that are to be interpreted.
  • General erudition and intimate familiarity with both cultures.
  • Extensive vocabulary in both languages.
  • Ability to express thoughts clearly and concisely in both languages.
  • Excellent note-taking technique for consecutive interpreting.
  • At least 2-3 years of booth experience for simultaneous interpreting.

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