In the news media there are frequent references to “translators”, such as: “The President, speaking through a translator, welcomed the Prime Minister to Washington”.   It should have been said “speaking through an INTERPRETER…

In our lingo, a translator is a person who translates the written language.  An interpreter translates the spoken language.  There is more to these terms than meets the eyes, however.  Let us examine their functions.iStock_000021332103Medium

INTERPRETERS, must frequently translate the spoken language instantly (such as in simultaneous interpreting),and must do so with a high degree of accuracy.  For the legal community there is no time  to be looking up words in a dictionary.  A witness may be a fingerprint expert and you must know the terms in both languages and be able to translate them in context.  If you are not familiar with the subject, let someone else do it.  For example: I would not feel comfortable interpreting on the issue of the calibration of strategic nuclear weapons.  I might start WW III!  But,I can certainly do the fingerprint testimony!

TRANSLATORS, are like book detectives.  They too have fields of specialization and numerous technical dictionaries in their specialties, such as, for example: “Spanish-English Dictionary of Surgical Terms”. Having this dictionary would not qualify you translate medical terms, you would also need to be a surgeon or physician.  Translators are highly specialized professionals.

The profession of translation/interpretation can be a fulfilling and lucrative job.  My cousin Arnoldo, now retired back in our home country of Panama, has a Masters in Engineering from Georgia Tech, and worked as an engineer in Chicago for many years, until he figured out that he could earn much more money translating power plant specifications.  Eventually his high earnings permitted him to buy a condo in the Loop area of Chicago.  Translation & Interpretation services for businesses are becoming vital for communication with their expanding international work forces.

As in every occupation: Learn to do what you do better than others and ye shall succeed.

For additional information on Interpreter or Translation services please contact Language Associates at  Language Associates, Inc. is a certified Interpreting & Translation company with over 30 years experience.

written by Juan Morales, Owner, Language Associates