Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
What is the difference between a translator and an interpreter?

A TRANSLATOR is one who renders WRITTEN word from one language to another. An INTERPRETER is one who renders SPOKEN word from one language to another.

What is Translation?

Translation is the process whereby the meaning, style and information of a piece of written text in one human language is reproduced in another written human language. For example, an English document is translated into German so that it creates the same impression on, and communicates the same information to, the German reader as it did for the English reader.

What is Interpretation?

Interpretation is the oral rendering of oral messages, and may be done either simultaneously or consecutively. Simultaneous interpretation is by far the best known of these techniques. Here, the interpreter sits in a booth receiving the message to be interpreted through earphones; then, having understood the message, he or she delivers it in the target language into a microphone. In consecutive interpretation, the interpreter takes notes while a speaker delivers the message (in five to seven minute long sections), and then the interpreter delivers the message in the target language, employing special note-taking and memory improvement techniques to increase the amount of information that can be accurately interpreted.

What is Localization?

Localization (L 10 N) is that process whereby an object (computer program, multimedia presentation, document, etc.) is not only translated, but also adapted to another culture. Such things as date formats, Metric/English measures, comma/decimal conventions etc. are considered in addition to the normal language issues. The idea is to make the product/service seem as though it originated in the target culture.

What is Computer Assisted Translation?

Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) is the label given to that category of computer program which supports humans who are performing translation tasks. The tools merely provide environments which enhance the ability of humans to provide timely translations of high quality in a cost effective manner. Examples are Sentence Memory (or Translation Memory), on-line dictionaries, bi-lingual editing systems, etc.

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What are A, B, & C languages?

Your “A” language is typically the language that you grew up with and were educated in during the bulk of your schooling. This is the language and culture that you feel most familiar with and can understand and speak with fluency, cultural awareness, understanding of nuances, and grammatical accuracy.

Your “B” language is the language that you feel almost as proficient in as you do your A language. This is a language that you typically have both substantial academic and in-country experience with. You can understand it, its nuances, and the cultural referents that native speakers of this language may use. You can also use it almost as fluently and expertly as you do your “A” language. Most translators and interpreters will listen/read in their B language as they interpret/translate into their A language, but many others will also work bi-directionally. That is, they will also listen/read in their A language and interpret/translate into their B language, so it must be very strong.

Your “C” language is typically considered a “passive” language. That is, your C language will be a language that you understand at the level of your A and/or B language, but that you will only listen/read in order to interpret/translate into you’re A/B language. You will not typically translate or interpret into your C language. Many translators and interpreters add C languages to their repertoire throughout their professional lives.

I need the services of a professional translator or interpreter - how do I find one?

Please contact the our office, and we are glad to pass on the names and contact information of our alumni, professors, and in some cases, current students.

Phone: 831.647.4198

Do I need to know what my major will be when I apply to the translation & interpretation programs?

No, you are not expected to know whether you will major in Translation, Translation and Interpretation, Conference Interpretation, or Translation/Localization Management. All students are exposed to translation, consecutive interpretation, and simultaneous interpretation in their first year. After two semesters, both you and your academic advisor will know more about your strengths and weaknesses, and what you like. In the second year, you will declare your major and focus your studies.

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How do I prepare for a career in translation, interpretation, or localization management?

Read our 10 Ways to Prepare for studying translation, interpretation, or localization management. 

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