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May 27, 2012 / ABC Translation Services

Translation FAQs

Translation & Interpretation FAQs

Q: What is the difference between a translator and an interpreter?

A: Translators transfer ideas and concepts expressed in writing from one language to another. As a rule, professional translators work into their native or dominant language from a foreign tongue.

Interpreters use the spoken word to transfer meaning between languages. Interpreters work both into and out of their native tongue.

Translation promotes your business overseas (or at home, to a market that speaks a different language) and helps you gather vital information on customers, technology, and new developments in your field. One example of translation’s importance in today’s economy is localization, the process of adapting a product or service to different cultures and markets. When software is localized, on-screen text and icons, help files, and user’s manuals are translated to fit the target audience. A technically skilled translator will help you design websites for global communication and e-commerce, so your customers overseas feel like they are actually at a “local” website. Customers are more likely to buy from you if you speak their language.

Interpreting is often used in a small group setting (“consecutive interpreting”) such as a legal deposition, medical consultation, or business meeting. “Escort interpreting” is a form of consecutive interpreting used during site visits and travel with delegations. “Simultaneous interpreting,” most often used in a large conference setting, requires the rental of audio equipment (soundproof booths, headsets, microphones, etc.).

Q: How do I pick the right translator or interpreter?

A: Skills and qualifications. Translators and interpreters bring a unique combination of linguistic and subject-area expertise to the job of conveying your message accurately and completely to a foreign reader or listener. Much more than just “switching words,” the job really involves the transfer of concepts into another cultural context.

Translators are skilled in writing, editing, research, and terminology. Typically, translators have resided in a country where the source language is spoken and are familiar with its culture, business practices, and legal system.

Interpreters must be fluent in both languages and possess excellent memory, listening, concentration, and analytical skills. They convey both the meaning and tone of the original statement clearly and accurately, and must be quick-witted, often literally “thinking on their feet.”

Knowing two languages perfectly is not enough to translate or interpret professionally. In addition to their training in translation or interpreting, competent language professionals usually specialize in a particular area (such as law, medicine, finance, or technical fields). Interpreters may be certified for court interpreting at the federal level in some languages. There are also examinations in some states for court and medical interpreting.

Q: Should I look for an individual or a translation company?

A: Translation companies have a depth of resources and can assign a translator that is perfectly suited to your project. Also, translation companies routinely check all work for accuracy, which is something that is beyond the scope of most individual or independent translators. Companies also have long track records and proven success with many satisfied customers.

The strength of a language services company lies in the breadth of resources on which it can call. By working with networks of independent translators and interpreters skilled in different languages and areas of specialization, companies are able to meet a wider variety of needs. The oversight and coordination they provide can be invaluable for large projects which involve many translators, interpreters, and editors working into multiple languages. Translation companies also add value through desktop publishing or typesetting and furnish specialized equipment for interpreting assignments. Be sure to ask for references as to the company’s reputation for consistently delivering high-quality work on time and honoring its cost estimates.

Q: Why should I hire a professional instead of using a free service like Google Translate?

A: As impressive as Google Translate and other similar services are beginning to be, they still cannot do what a human can do: understand a text with all its nuances of meaning and re-create that in just the right words in another language. All Google Translate will do is match words and phrases with previously translated words and phrases in its database. It cannot research the right term for a technical document, find the right play on words for a newspaper article, or craft a message that resonates with a different target audience for an ad that will be used in a different market.

If you want a polished text that you can be proud to put your or your company’s name on, you want to work with a professional translator. And if you have ongoing translation needs, that person can prove an invaluable advisor to help you efficiently manage your documents and your budget.

If you have questions about a translation project, feel free to contact us and we’ll provide free advise – and usually a free quote as well!  Reach us by visiting our website at

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