The language sciences of interpreting and translation are inextricably linked. Nonetheless, they are rarely performed by the same individuals. The disparity in abilities, training, aptitude and even language understanding is so great that few people can perform both professionally.

On the surface, the distinction between interpreting and translation is merely one medium: an interpreter interprets oral communication, whereas a translator interprets written text. Both interpreting and translation require a passion for language and a breadth of knowledge in multiple languages.

The Difference between Translation and Interpreting

Technical Translators' Competency Profile

The skills disparities are arguably greater than the similarities. The translator's primary talents are the capacity to comprehend the source language and culture of the country from where the content originated and then to render that information clearly and accurately into the target language using a good library of dictionaries and reference materials. In other words, while linguistic and cultural abilities are vital, the greatest distinguishing characteristic of a skilled translator is the capacity to write fluently in the target tongue.

Even multilingual individuals rarely express themselves equally well in both languages on a particular subject, and many outstanding translators are actually not fully bilingual. A good translator, aware of this constraint, will exclusively translate documents into his or her home tongue. This is why, in addition to their subject matter expertise, we at Maxsun demand our technical translators to translate exclusively into their home language.

On the other hand, an interpreter must be able to translate in both directions at the moment, without the assistance of dictionaries or other reference resources. Interpreters, particularly those who perform simultaneous interpreting, must possess excellent listening talents. Simultaneous interpreters must process and memorize the words spoken by the source-language speaker in the present moment while concurrently outputting the translation of words spoken 5-10 seconds ago in the target language. Additionally, interpreters must have strong public speaking abilities and the intellectual capacity to translate idioms, colloquialisms, and other culturally distinctive references into equivalent statements that the target audience would comprehend.


Qualifications of an Interpreter

Interpreting, like translation, is primarily a paraphrasing art—the interpreter listens to a speaker in one language, grasps the substance of what is being said, and then uses the tools of the target language to paraphrase his or her understanding of the meaning. However, just as you cannot explain a notion to someone if you do not fully comprehend it, you cannot translate or interpret something unless you have a firm grasp on the subject matter being conveyed.

It cannot be overstated: when selecting an interpreter, subject matter expertise is just as vital as interpreting experience.


Maxsun's interpreters are proficient in the following areas:

  • Comprehensive understanding of the subject
  • Familiarity with both cultures
  • Large vocabularies in both languages
  • Capacity to communicate oneself succinctly and clearly in both languages
  • Excellent strategies for collecting notes during different interpreting scenarios
  • At least 2-3 years of simultaneous interpreting booth experience

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