Most people use the words translator and interpreter interchangeably even though they are very different disciplines. They are related in terms of the purpose they serve, which is to make language and communication easy to understand, but the act of translation is not the same as interpretation. Some of the main differences between a translator and interpreter include:
The difference between a translator and an interpreter is the method they use to deliver the message. An interpreter delivers messages orally and is mostly always present where the original message is being delivered. Translators, on the other hand, use written language to deliver their message. Translators can get previously written information and rewrite it in another language.
Level of Expertise
Even though both an interpreter and a translator may be experts in the language they are using, the level of expertise in special disciplines differentiates them. A translator will mainly focus on the basics of the language and what individual words mean. To be an interpreter may need one to undergo some special training where they learn how to interpret special jargon and terminologies used in certain disciplines such as law and medicine.
Time of Delivery
To be an interpreter needs real time presence for communication to take place, while a translator may have to work with bulk written information over a period of time. They may even take works that were published many years before and embark on translation.
Use of Materials
Since interpreters work real time, they rarely use sources such as dictionaries and other tools to help with communication. Translators are different because they are allowed to check dictionaries, previously published works, and translation tools to get a clear view of the message being communicated.
Translators need a different skill set to make them efficient in their work compared to what interpreters need. Interpreters need to have good listening skills and active minds to allow them to quickly process the information they are getting into another language. A translator, on the other hand, must have good writing skills and patience to read through even bulky sources of information.
Direction of the message
A translator does a one-way communication where they simply write out their message from one language into another. For an interpreter, the message is two directional. They get the message, interpret to the recipient and in some cases, they are expected to get the message from the recipient back to the sender.
Even though there are differences in how translators and operators work, they are both expected to operate within professionalism and code of ethics set for both of them. They are also expected to understand their subjects and their culture before they start the translation.