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Not all translators can interpret, I myself am a beautiful example. I like to be a library-dwelling hermit bookworm who has all the time in the world to carefully shape my words.

On the reverse, are there any interpreters who do not (or cannot) translate (written material)? If so, why/why not?

This is an important question in our line of work because too many people interchange the terms "translator" and "interpreter" rather loosely.... or avoid the latter all together.

asked 13 Apr '12, 15:43

jdecamillis's gravatar image


edited 13 Apr '12, 15:54

I do not translate at all. Although the answers at the thread referred to by msr seem to suggest that many interpreters do, and also that it is good for developing your skills. I do not doubt that translation is an excellent complement to interpreting, but I'm simply not a good enough writer. Writing skills is an important part of translation and I'm a fairly sloppy writer and an appallingly bad proof reader, so there are obvious reasons for me to stay out of translation. Having said all that I have to admit that I have done exceptions for interpreting clients, but I'm not sure I was the best person suited for the task.

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answered 19 Apr '12, 15:14

tulkur's gravatar image


A very topical question indeed :-) on several accounts, not just on the T/I front (ie the that fact that both can be done by some does not mean that both are but one) but also when it comes to that commonly held misconception that translation equates with literal and interpreting with liberal.

Pretending that "having" languages is all it takes to either translate or interpret is tantamount to believing that having hands is all it takes to play the piano... which is so patently not the case that one cannot help but wonder why this fallacy has lived on for so long in our respective fields.

There are indeed many interpreters who do not do translation - I'm one - because I'd rather use my " hands" for what, to me, feels more congenial, ie interpreting :-)...which probably means that I prefer the context, attitude, discipline, mind-set etc of interpreting over the ones of translation.

By the way, this topic has already been discussed on this site, namely .

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answered 13 Apr '12, 20:36

msr's gravatar image


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question asked: 13 Apr '12, 15:43

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