When meeting someone new at some event, it is quite common to talk about ourselves and learn a bit about the other person. It is usual to talk about the place where we live, children and of course, occupation. From my experience, I must say these conversations are always very pleasant and always bring about the same question: “Oh you’re a translator. Very nice. Do you do conferences?” …
Well, yes, if you are holding a conference and need some leaflets made in several languages, being Portuguese one of them, I can certainly do that for you. But if you need someone to stand up at the conference and translate what a participant says in English into Portuguese, so the Portuguese attendees understand it, then my answer will be, no I don’t, because I’m not an Interpreter.
Then it gets even more interesting and I’m always asked to explain the difference. It is quite understandable I must say, since theoretically both translators and interpreters translate from a source to a target language. However, the way we conduct our work is totally different and we do have different qualifications.
A translator works with written documents. We sit at our desks with our tools and we translate documents. An interpreter works differently. Their work is oral rather than written. They stand up and translate speeches or they translate over the phone and other similar situations.
Now if you ask me if I couldn’t translate what someone says to another person who doesn’t understand it. Yes I can, in fact I believe every bilingual person does that from time to time. I’ve been asked to go to medical appointments with relatives, I’ve been asked to translate people’s conversations in family functions, for those who can’t understand English. However, I did this in a family context and of course, I didn’t charge for it, and I never acted as a professional interpreter, as I do not have qualifications for that.
There are practitioners with both qualifications. They are both translators and interpreters.
At the end of the day, we both have very challenging and amazing jobs, we both learn a lot throughout our careers. We both have a great amount of responsibility in our work, but who hasn’t?
I decided to talk about this today, so I can clarify this and help people understand the differences between a translator and an interpreter.
I hope I helped you do that.