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Translation or Interpretation? What’s the Difference?

FLS loves our remarkable clients! No two are alike. They range from a single person who walks into our office asking for our help to a corporation needing technical manuals in their client’s language. And we can’t forget the hospital, clinic, social service, school, or attorney needing daily communication with their limited-English-proficient clientele.  No matter the industry or need, we love to serve our clients with both interpreting and translation services.

Well, you may wonder, “What’s the difference between interpreting and translation?” You also may ask, “Isn’t all I need to do is find someone who speaks or reads or writes in that language...and does the same inEnglish...and understands the subject of the conversation and the context and the dialects?  And where do I start?”

The good news is, you don’t have to worry about any of that — that’s our job. And you can start by calling FLS.

We know that each client needs the help of a knowledgeable professional to understand the multifaceted variety of language communications.  A language company’s business is to determine which communication mode will be most helpful.  Bilingual managers help clients understand and distinguish between these two unique methods of communication: Translation and interpretation.

Well, this is precisely what FLS does every day when we respond to client needs like these:

Help! We need to provide our employees with our HR manual in their native language. Can you help me with this?

“Hello. Can I bring you my medical record/school transcript/divorce decree/birth certificate, etc. (an unending list) and get a certified translation?”

“I am SO glad to find you! I have an inheritance in Italy, and my U.S. attorney says all the documents must be in English. Can FLS do that?” 

“Help! We have an at-risk newborn whose hearing and sight need evaluation, and a therapist will meet with the LEP parents tomorrow. Can you provide a medically-trained linguist who speaks Spanish?”

“Hello! Can you help my company convert some software license agreements into 15 foreign languages?”

“Help! I have a parent who doesn’t speak English, and their child’s report card conference is next week. Can you send someone to help me communicate with them?” 

"Help! I need a court-experienced interpreter during the hearings for an ongoing case. Can FLS help me with this?  

Although the above requests might seem daunting, they are the daily norm here at FLS. Our FLS team of bilingual managers are pros in differentiating the skills the linguist needs for in-person/virtual interpreting OR written translation. When a client calls, one of FLS’s talented managers provides the solution.

So, what is the difference? It is huge.  A written translation can be drafted, edited, revised, proofed, and published. These linguists, called translators, take time to digest, correct, and improve upon what is written. When interpretation is needed, the interpreter does not have the luxury of “doing over.” Interpretation (spoken or signed) is an immediate rendering in real time of one language to another.

Both interpretation and translation are highly studied and practiced skills. Consequently, many linguists specialize in one or the other.

Every day — and every job — is unique at Foreign Language Services!  Over forty years of experience means our clients don’t have to know whether to request “interpretation” or “translation”—they rely on FLS to provide the right service.  We love serving them because we love what we do!