1/ Interpreting Versus Translation:

Interpreting is commonly referred to as “oral” as opposed to “written” translation, and often referred to as “the second oldest profession in the world”. It involves conveying the meaning of a source text (S.T) by means of a target text (T.T) in the oral modality, both for spoken and signed languages.

As early as the 1960’s, Otto Kade (1968) defined interpreting as a form of translation (in the wider sense) in which the source-language text is presented only once and thus cannot be reviewed or replayed, and the target-language text is produced under time pressure, with little chance for correction and revision.

The “interpretive theory of translation” or “théorie du sens” which goes back to the early 1960’s, essentially holds that interpreting is not linguistic transcoding but a process based on knowledge-based comprehension.

Interpreting is practiced in international conferences, social institutions such as courtrooms, hospitals, immigration offices, schools and social service agencies.

2/ Technical Differences:

Though subject to fundamental principles and insights concerning translation in general, interpreting studies is clearly distinguished by its unique object of study that is “real-time” human translation in an essentially shared communicative context.

A related focus of interest is the strategies used by interpreters to cope with such processing constraints as high source-text presentation rate (speed), high information density, scripted style and unusual accents. They include on-line strategies such as anticipation, compression and syntactic restructuring as well as off-line strategies preceding the real-time task (eg: background research, study of documents, preparation of glossaries. Most of the latter are designed to enhance the interpreter’s thematic and contextual knowledge and thus to aid top-down (knowledge-driven) processing of linguistic input. At the same time, interpreters are guided by communicative (listener-oriented) considerations, so that features of the situated interaction become an integral part of their cognitive processing activity.

And while interpreting clearly requires high linguistic and sociocultural competence, this alone does not make a good interpreter. Interpreters need outstanding cognitive processing skills (to focus and split their attention to the input and to store, analyse, and retrieve information) subject knowledge (to understand the S.T), interpersonal skills (to closely work with people), presentation skills (to deliver high quality information with appropriate voice), and professional skills (to behave ethically).