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Translators X interpreters: what is the difference?

Atualizado: 12 de Set de 2019

Increase in the number of events and the growth of investments in Brazil have also increased job opportunities for translators and interpreters. The expression “translator and interpreter” is frequently used and gives the impression that the same person develops both activities, however, and in general terms, translator is the one that focusing on written documents, while the interpreter will be in charge of spoken translations. Even through their basic academic qualification is the same, their work routines can diverge greatly.



The work of the translator does not need much contact with other people and can be performed inside an office or his/her own house. In order to become a good translator, it is required a lot of competence in vocabulary, grammar and colloquial expressions from Portuguese and target languages. Moreover, it is important to be familiar with new technologies, as the work is essentially performed by his/her interaction with a computer. It is also desirable the mastery of text edition tools and the knowledge of programs that facilitate the work by means of glossaries, translated text memories and word counting, just to name a few. Among the areas of expertise, there is the corporate market, cinematographic industry, the literature and publishing areas. There is also the sworn translator, approved in a public examination held by the trade board of a State. He/she is the only duly qualified to translate official documents, which require public equivalence, such as contracts, legal statements, testimonies, diplomas, school histories and certificates.


The interpreter needs to like to communicate and interact with other people and to be prepared to work under pressure and to speak in public, a situation that can occur during any event, which happens to be his/her workplace. Spoken translation demands a high level of concentration to hear, comprehend and quickly translate at the same time. It is also good that the interpreter knows how to quickly and calmly react to a sudden change. Interpreters work for a wide range of clients and publics, which demands a considerable versatility and constant updating of what is going on in the national and international scenarios. Due to the high degree of specification in some subjects, hours of study and preparation are previously needed.


Basically, there are two oral translation modalities: simultaneous and consecutive. Simultaneous translation is the act of orally translate, as the name implies, at the same time the speech of the orator for the language of the audience/hearers. This interpretation mode is the most used one in major events. In the consecutive modality, the interpreter is located near the lecturers in order to perfectly see and hear what is going on around them. As the orator speaks, the interpreter takes notes to, within short intervals, convey the message into another language. This modality is recommended only for short-term meetings, being also useful during visits to factories, offices and events with a small amount of attendees.


Most people, mainly those that speak English, have the false impression that being a translator and/or interpreter is an easy and simple task, but the fact of knowing English too well is not enough to become a professional. There are many difficulties in this profession and to exercise it with confidence and dignity, a specialization is essential. There are several course types, from college qualification to free courses focusing on practice and improvement offered by renowned translators and interpreters. Considering that this profession is not regulated by the Ministry of Labor and Employment, any individual considering as capable and prepared can translate, in theory. However, as there are no qualification requirements, there is no doubt that a great deal of study is required for the good performance of the professional in this area, with a special focus on linguistic studies. Unfortunately, there is no step-by-step to enter the segment, but there are common elements for any successful professional. Without exceptions, we are expected to find dedication and passion, discipline and effort, and on top of all, talent.

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