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Interpreting and Translating... they are two different things...

Often times, I have been approached by individuals to do translating work, when in fact the person needed interpreting assistance. With this in mind, I'd like to share with you the difference between each discipline.  I hope after you read through these disciplines, you will be able to make an informative decision on what type of service you need.


It is the process of taking a document written in a source language and converting the same text to the desired language. The translation is always done in writing. For example, legal documents, instruction manuals, business plans, academic records, medical information brochures, tax audit documents, or any other written document. The expert translator will ensure that the language, format and content are accurately conveyed in the desired language. Translators must have excellent research skills and be familiar with the technical linguistics of the subject.

Simultaneous Interpretation

Simultaneous interpretation is usually use with earpieces and microphones, and the interpreter works from a sound proof office. When, there is no earpieces or microphones, the interpreter utilizes a technique called chuchotage.

Most commonly used when there are multiple speakers, information session, or with caregivers.

The interpreter converts a speaker's or signer's message into another language while the speaker or signer continues to speak or sign.

Sight Translation

My name is Miryam E. Ruvalcaba, and I am a Spanish <-> English independent interpreter and translator serving LEP (Limited English Proficient) individuals and Limited Spanish Proficient individuals living in Baja California, México and Southern California, USA. Interpretation and translation have been the common denominator through 29 years of career experience in management, housing, social services coordination, and volunteering work, among others.


It is more than converting a message from a source language into an equivalen message in the target language so that the recipient of the message responds to it as if he or she had heard it in his or her own language. Let me quote and anonymous author on this item, so that you get an idea of what interpreting entails. 

"While you speak, interpreters are actively listening to what you say, understanding what they hear, breaking it down into parts, finding the main idea and important details, then they will convert it into a totally different language, restructure the message so it make sense in the new language, put it out in sign language, and then monitor what they are saying to make sure it is making sense all while keeping the integrity of the original message and continuing to listen to what you are saying as this process repeats over and over again."

- Anonymous Author

Consecutive Interpretation

Consecutive interpreting is the most common style of interpreting. The interpreter relays a message in a sequential matter after the speaker has paused or has completed a thought.

Parties communicate using the interpreter as a conduit. The message has to be delivered with accuracy and encouraging turn taking.


Medical Interpretation

A Profesional Medical Interpreter brings, in addition to his or her linguistic skills, the skills to facilitate a therapeutic connection between the patient and the health provider. The interpreter is aware of the complexities when different culturally based belief systems are involved. Therefore, the profesional moderate these challenges through cultural awareness and  ethical behavior.


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