To translate or to interprete: that’s the real question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind of the client to correct their mistake or to take a guess and deliver the wrong service.
“Exactly what is this nonsense?”, I hear you ask.
Let me explain. A client called us recently and asked whether we could provide a translator. Our conversation went like this:
client: “I need a translator.”
intrawelt: “Of course! No problem. What do you need translated?”
c: “I don’t know. The meeting’s next week.”
i: “The meeting? So you want the minutes translated?”
c: “What? No, I need a translator to tell me what the Japanese are saying.”
i: “Oh…..so you need an interpreter.”
c: “No. I need a translator.”
So you can see our dilemma. Technically, an interpreter works with the spoken word and a translator will work with the written word. But some clients use the terms interchangeably. To us, it makes a huge different because the skills required are quite different (although there is some overlap, admittedly). But to the client, it’s all the same.
And I can see the client’s point of view – they need someone to help them communicate with their Japanese colleagues. Really, the client doesn’t care if we call them Interpreters, Translators, or Mary or Mark. What they care about is what’s “inside the box” – the service – rather than the label. Our trick, as a business, is to establish what that service is and to deliver it. Fortunately, we do have an interpreter called Mary.