Interpreting: essential concepts

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Interpreting is sometimes difficult to define clearly, and it is often confused with translation, as the differences are admittedly subtle. It is much more commonly used than you might think, and our article will reveal everything you need to know about interpreting.

The difference between interpreting and translation  

Interpreting is a discipline that is often mistaken for translation. Interpreting involves rendering spoken language from one source language into a target language (for example, from English to French). The target language should be the interpreter’s mother tongue. Translation, on the other hand, involves reformulating a written document from one source language into a target language.  

Similarities between interpreting and translation  

Both disciplines are based on the principle of transferring content available in one language to another language. The content is (almost) always transferred to the mother tongue, and translators and interpreters must have a perfect command of their main language in addition to a foreign language. In-depth knowledge of the specific field (medical, economic, legal, etc.) is also necessary.  

The main methods of interpreting 

There are several forms of interpreting; the main types are: 

  1. Simultaneous interpreting, also known as “conference interpreting”  

The interpreter must reproduce the speech at the same time as the speaker. The audience therefore has access to the information in real time. It is the most widely used form of interpreting and requires speed, which can often result in a somewhat literal translation. It is commonly used during conferences, guided tours and professional meetings. The interpreter works in a soundproof booth with a view of the speaker. The audience is given a headset connected to the interpreter’s microphone.  

  • Consecutive interpreting 

The speakers talk, then pause, and the interpreter reproduces the information in the target language. The interpreter has the time to absorb the key information and to prepare before reproducing it orally; they must be concise, clear and maintain the general meaning of the speech. Interpreters may stand next to the speaker or in a booth.  

  • Legal interpreting  

In this case, the interpreter specialises in the judicial field. During the settlement of a court case or questioning, an interpreter is sometimes needed to facilitate communication between the accused, the client, the victim and the authorities. It is also worth noting that court interpreting has been recognised under Common Law for a century.  

Court interpreting is increasingly used a number of countries, including Canada, now have a more diverse mix of languages and cultures.

  • Sign language interpreting 

People who are hard of hearing need to have access to spoken discourse in sign language. To do so, sign language interpreters must make sure that they convey the right information. Although it is increasingly provided simultaneously, sign language interpreting was originally consecutive to allow the interpreter to digest the content.  

Don’t forget that there are types of interpreting suitable for all fields.  

The necessary qualities to be a good interpreter  

Above all, interpreters must have an excellent command of their mother tongue. They must also be fluent in at least two foreign languages.  

They must then specialise in a specific field (technical, medical, legal, etc.) to gain in-depth knowledge about a subject, to master the appropriate terminology and to have a professional perspective on the content.  

In addition, they must be highly adaptable (constantly monitoring developments in the sector, and up-to-date with current affairs) and have excellent oral communication skills (able to handle stress, pressure, unforeseen events, etc.).  

Sworn interpreter 

Also known as an expert translator-interpreter, a sworn interpreter is a public officer, authorised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  

Sworn interpreters work closely with the justice system, the customs authorities and the national and local police forces. They provide services during police custody, questioning, investigations, telephone tapping, or even during a court hearing.  

To become a sworn interpreter, you must: 

  1. Be a professional interpreter;
  2. Have professional experience;
  3. Submit an application to the public prosecutor;
  4. Swear an oath.

Although interpreting is different from translation, they are nevertheless remarkably similar. They must be performed by experienced professionals.  

At Intertranslations, we offer interpreting services (simultaneous or consecutive) provided by professionals. Our team is made up of interpreters specialised in specific fields, with several years of experience to guarantee high-quality interpreting to meet your requirements.  

Contact us for any requests for an estimate or further information.   

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