Words from the Wardrobe

Why I became a Translator not an Interpreter

Both translation and interpreting involve transferring information from one language to another. 

However, they are not the same and require different skills. 

Translation involves transferring written texts from one language to another, while interpreting requires transferring spoken words from one language to another. 

I am passionate about languages and enjoy bringing different texts from one language and culture to another. 

Although I liked the interpreting lessons at university, and I was good at it, my career ended up focusing on translation only.

And this story of my trip to Copenhagen in 2010 shows that I made the right decision.

My experience in Copenhagen

In 2010, I went to Copenhagen on a business trip. 

I stopped at a sausage stand and asked for a bottle of water in English. 

The person at the stand asked me if I wanted ‘another’.

But I understood ‘water’, so I said yes. 

Instead of giving me a bottle of water, she gave me an extra sausage 😂.

Although I had not done any interpreting since I finished university in 2001 (except helping my boss occasionally) and I could catch up with practice, this experience taught me that I had made the right decision by focusing on translation.

Imagine making a similar mistake while interpreting in a business meeting or conference!

Despite this faux pas, it was a fantastic trip!

And I’d recommend using TimeOut – it really was the ultimate guide to Copenhagen!

And I am looking forward to more European adventures in 2023 – with The Hague booked to visit a friend and more to follow.

Picture of Copenhagen and my funny story where I got an extra sausage instead of water!
My funny translator not an interpreter experience in beautiful Copenhagen

Translator not an Interpreter

While both are valuable professions, translation and interpretation require different skills.

I focus on being a translator not an interpreter.

Translators usually have plenty of time to review the text, research, leave the translation aside for some time and resume it later to finalise it.

I say ‘usually’ because timeframes for translations are tighter and tighter. 

Everything is for yesterday, as they say.

Interpreters, however, work with their short-term memory.

And that’s exhausting!

Ideally, they should also receive information about the interpreting task in advance. 

In conference interpreting, it’s helpful to learn more about the speech theme. 

You can provide interpreters with the visuals the speaker will use, information about the speaker and, if possible, previous speeches so they can know more about the speaker’s pronunciation, speech pace, tics and use of filler words.

My Copenhagen story is just one such example of how pronunciation can affect how we understand a message.

For business meetings, you will help your interpreter a lot if you provide them with information about the companies and the people participating in the meeting, the topic, and documents that will be shared during the session.

Do not worry about confidentiality.

Interpreters are used to signing NDAs. 

Their code of conduct does not allow them to disclose any information.

If you hire a professional interpreter, of course. 

If you trust the relative of a friend or someone you met once and who told you they could speak several languages, surprises can happen.

Translator or Interpreter? They are two valuable professions, each with different skills.
Translator or interpreter?

Mistakes cost money

In the world of language, mistakes can be costly. 

They can lead to misunderstandings, incorrect information, poor communication, and loss of trust between customers and vendors.

Poorly translated documents can even lead to financial losses due to the cost of correcting mistakes. 

Poor interpreting can lead to an agreement not being reached.

That is why it is essential to understand that being a translator and an interpreter are two jobs requiring different skills. 

Speaking a language does not make you a translator. Nor an interpreter.

If you are a language enthusiast and want to make a living in the translation and interpreting world, get some training.

You may not need to have a full university degree, but there are lots of courses you can take.

In Spain, Aula SIC, Cálamo y Cran and Trágora formación are three places to start with.

In other countries, associations like ATA or ITI organise training for members and non-members.

I hope this blog helped you understand our world better.

To read more of my stories, head here: Words from the Wardrobe.

See you for the next post!

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