What is the difference between interpreting and translating?

Interpreting is the conversion of speech (spoken language) into a different language. Translation is conversion of text (written language) from one language into another. However, many people use these terms interchangeably.

For example: “The interpreter will translate the document out loud to the witness.” The correct term of art here would be “sight translation” because the interpreter is translating a written text by reading it and speaking–rather than writing–the translation. A written text is much denser than a spoken utterance. In cases where a speaker is reading from a prepared speech, interpretation may be rendered more accurately by utilizing sight translation as opposed to interpretation of the spoken words.


Why do interpreters work in teams of two during long proceedings?

Whether simultaneous or consecutive, interpreting is mentally taxing and requires much more concentration than that required for ordinary speaking. One research panel equated the stress level involved to being more severe than that experienced by a neurosurgeon while operating. Furthermore, studies show that significant errors in meaning of interpreted words tend to occur after 30-45 minutes of continuous simultaneous interpretation. For these reasons many international agencies, including the United Nations and the European Commission, require rotation of interpreters every 30 minutes.


When is interpretation equipment required?

We like to have your questions one week before the meeting in an electronic format – via e-mail, or diskette.

Interpretation equipment is a requirement for simultaneous interpretation. Whereas a consecutive interpreter may use the same PA equipment as the delegates at a meeting to broadcast their interpretation, a simultaneous interpreter requires a parallel system that will enable those delegates who so desire to hear the alternate language. This is normally achieved through the temporary installation of a transmitter and wireless receivers.


What kind of equipment is required for simultaneous interpretation to be successful?

The equipment required for interpretation can range from a single transmitter to a complex integrated audio delivery system. In planning your interpretation assignment, your Ubiqus representative will ask you a number of questions in order to determine the optimum lowest-cost configuration for your event. Equipment such as audio systems, soundproof booths, headsets, recording systems and wireless microphones may be necessary to ensure that all delegates have access to the technology that will enable them to get the most value from an event.


What is a certified interpreter?

The term “certified” is often used as a catch-all phrase to refer to any interpreter who works in a courtroom, but standards are far from uniform and court interpreting is still partly an unregulated profession. State and federal courts have different qualification procedures and different performance standards.

On the federal level, the Court Interpreters Act of 1978 mandated that a national certification examination be developed to test for knowledge of both languages and interpreting skill, administered through the Administrative Office of the US courts. The federal interpreter testing program was developed in 1980.

Currently, the states have several different kinds of interpreter testing, but not all tests are recognized by law as certification tests. In New York State, interpreters who work full time or per diem are tested and approved by the state, but the state does not certify interpreters. New York State currently tests in 12 language combinations. New Jersey also has a program for qualifying interpreters, but it is not a certification exam. Other states, such as California and Washington, do have interpreter certification exams in many languages.