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Interpreting is used — and misused — often in the English language. In the context of the language services industry, here are two official definitions:
“Rendering a spoken or signed message into another spoken or signed language, preserving the register and meaning of the source language content.”
— International Organization for Standardization (ISO) International Standard 13611: Interpreting: Guidelines for Community Interpreting, 2014
“The process of first fully understanding, analyzing, and processing a spoken or signed message and then faithfully rendering it into another spoken or signed language. ”
— ASTM International, F2089, Standard Practice for Language Interpreting, 2015
In other words, interpreting converts the meaning of the source language into the target language.
Interpreting takes place in many settings and for many reasons, yet at heart the purpose of interpreting is to facilitate communication between parties who do not share a common language. Trained, qualified interpreters faithfully interpret for all parties without adding, omitting or changing the message. And yet, their professionalism not only enables direct communication, it also supports communicative autonomy.
Interpreting and translation are not the same thing! While many professional interpreters are translators and vice versa, interpreting and translation are two separate professions with different codes of ethics, educational requirements and certifications.
Rendering a message orally, or in signed language, from one language into another.
Rendering a written text from one language to another in writing. Learn more about translation.
In this inspiring video from the American Translators Association, interpreters and translators describe their reasons for joining the language industry. They also give examples of some fascinating and super specialized projects!