You know how that conversation goes…

True story! This conversation is based on actual conversations I have had.

-So what do you do for a living?

-I’m a translator and interpreter.

-So you, um, you translate…? Like text?

-Yeah, I translate text. And I’m also an interpreter.

-So you translate like into a bunch of languages?

-Well, I’m only supposed to do it into my native language, although there are exceptions.

-Oh so you take what’s in a foreign language and you put it into English?

-Well, no, because I’m not a native speaker of English.

-So you translate like books and stuff?

-Well, not right now. I would like to translate books at some point but for now I’m doing mostly commercial and business materials.

-So you’re gonna translate like The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter?

-Um, I don’t think so. It’s really hard to bre-

-But wait, so you’re also like one of those people who does the voice over on the news when someone speaks in a foreign language?

-That’s actually an interpreter, not a translator.


-An interpreter translates the spoken word. Translators deal with written words.

-Oh, I see. So you like type the words in…?

-Well, yeah, when I’m translating. But as an interpreter I hear what someone is saying orally and…

-And you type it!

-No, no, there’s no typing involved. I interpret for the benefit of people hearing me. Say you go to a conference that’s being given completely in a foreign language. So you put on your headphones and somebody interprets it into English so that you can understand.

-Oh, so it’s like in that movie with Nicole Kidman… what is it called, it’s um…?

The Interpreter.

-Yeah! That’s right! That’s the one. Did you see it? Wasn’t it cool?

-Well, I…

-So exciting! So you do that sort of thing?

-Well, that’s simultaneous interpretation. I do that sometimes but I also do consecutive.

-Oh so what’s the difference?

-Well, in simultaneous interpretation you interpret as someone speaks and you need equipment for that. And in consecutive you wait until the person has finished speaking a few sentences and then you interpret.

-So what’s the difference?


-And when you translate with the headset do you type it somewhere so that people can read it?

-No, there’s no typing involved. You simply speak into the microphone so people can hear you on their headphones.

-But do you like read it from a speech you were given?

-Very rarely. More often than not you have to do it without a text.

-Oh, so you translate as you hear.

-Yes, I interpret as I hear.

-Man, that sounds so hard. And sexy! Nicole Kidman was really sexy in that movie.

-I imagine.

-She was definitely rocking that scarf!

-Agh, yes the scarf. That’s all she cared about when she first saw the UN interpreters.

-Well, she was right on the money.


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