What is interpreting?

“Interpreting is the transfer of one spoken or signed language to another. Interpreters work in a wide range or different settings – from international conferences and business meetings to courts and doctors’ surgeries.”

(Careers in Interpreting factsheet, Languages Work)

Interpreting is not the same thing as translation, although they require some of the same skills. Interpreting is a close to immediate transfer of something that has been written or signed, while translation involves producing a written text from a ‘source text’ in a different language, over a longer period of time. For more on translation, see the National Network for Translation (NNT) website at www.routesintolanguages.ac.uk/translation.

Interpreting is complex, challenging and rewarding.  It is a very demanding occupation but it can also be fun and exciting.  Like any occupation it has pros and cons, but some of the things interpreters love about the job are the chance to hear and speak several languages, very varied work, having to think on their feet, the opportunity to travel and gain an insight into other cultures, working with different colleagues every day, and being able to help people who otherwise could not communicate.

Below is a speech by interpreter Toby Screech on the differences between interpreting and translation. You can see some interpretation taking place in the background!

On the following pages find out about different types of interpreting and which languages an interpreter might work with.