What is an Interpreter?


When delving into the world of translation in all its various forms the word interpretation often comes up when changing messages into different languages. This article will further explain the complex and difficult job of an interpreter, how the job is done and also what the difference between an interpreter and a translator is.  Since an interpreter is working across languages, it is also an exchange of cultural messages. This means that the interpreter must be familiar with both cultures in terms of references, symbols and meanings to deliver a well interpreted message.

Firstly, the difference between a translator and an interpreter is that translation is often a one directional changing of languages. Often a translator will only translate into their native language, however, the act of interpretation requires this transaction to happen in two different languages. This demands that the interpreter is bilingual in both languages. They both require a very different skill set in order to succeed in the field of interpretation. Interpreters usually have no resources at hand to make these linguistic translations possible. Interpreters have the job of not just translating word for word into a new language but creating a connection between people, tone, intentions and emotions in what is being said.

When an interpreter is changing a message it’s crucial that they have strong decision making powers as there is no time for hesitation when interpreting. There are two main types of interpretation: consecutive and simultaneous. Consecutive interpreting often happens in settings where natural breaks occur. Often in meetings there will be a natural pause every 1-5 minutes and this is where the speaker will stop and information will be interpreted. Consecutive interpretation requires an excellent memory as to remember what has been said as well as notetaking abilities. Interpreters frequently develop their own methods of note taking and rather than using words they take notes in symbols and ideas that transverse languages.

In simultaneous interpretation there is about a half a sentence delay in the information that the interpreter is speaking or writing. This requires a great deal of skill as they must be knowledgeable in the general subject of what they are interpreting. Interpreters must also have a very wide vocabulary in both languages that they operate in and be able to express themselves full in both languages.

The job of an interpreter is extremely crucial to international affairs and requires a great deal of professionalism. Interpreters can often be found in diplomatic settings such as EU or UN meetings. This type of meeting requires simultaneous interpretation. Additionally interpretations can occur during court trials, face to face meetings and speeches.

Interpretation can occur in person, by telephone or even through video conferencing and internet based programs. Any restrictions to interpreters are lessened with access to the internet. Interpreters are well versed at dealing with different language and people and are a vital role when communicating across different cultures.