For a person that is not in the language industry, both terms may be used indistinctly.
In industry jargon, however, the terms are very different.
GENERALLY speaking, for those of us in the industry, “translation” refers to documents and “interpreting” refers to audio.
That is to say, an interpreter will listen to what is being said (in what is called a source language), and then convey the same message into a target language. You have probably seen interpreters on TV, usually in an interview or walking around with politicians. They are generally the ones whispering into the politician’s ear. You most likely have heard interpreters whenever a a speaker of a foreign language is interviewed on TV or radio.
A “translator”, instead of listening, will read a document, and then write the same message in a target language. A translator, therefore is not heard and works with documents in front of a computer. A translator conducts terminology research and subject matter research to make sure the target language translation is nearly identical to the source language document. In the case of legal documents, not only does the vocabulary have to match, but the legal concepts of the original document’s country must match the target country’s judicial system’s terminology and concepts as much as possible. That is to say, a legal document translation going to México may not be the same compared to one going to Argentina. The translator should be able to understand not only the legal jargon, but the underlying concepts and find the equivalent concepts in the target country. This is the type of translator we employ here at Legal Translations, Inc.
Click to see a quick video about one of them.