In brief, interpreters translate spoken language orally in real-time, while translators translate the written text.  Regarding delivery, interpretation takes place on the spot and can be live, for example in political interviews that are broadcast on news channels.  Interpreters transpose the source language within context, preserving its original meaning, and rephrase colloquialisms, sayings, idioms, and other cultural references.

Translation, on the other hand, can occur long after the source text is created. This gives translators time to make use of subtitling technologies to generate accurate, high-quality translation texts.

Interpreters are fluent in both the source and target language, whereas translators typically work in one direction translating into their mother tongue.

Both translators and interpreters have to face the challenges that analogies, colloquialism, idioms, metaphors, in-jokes, and slang bring into the mix. Interpreters also capture tone, inflections, voice quality, and other elements of the spoken word and convey these verbal cues to audiences.

In subtitling, the translation of a message needs to be adapted, and that requires a special skill known as localization that has been refined by professionals in this area.

A subtitler’s role is to adapt the script to fit within the timing of the video or film. This work requires highly experienced specialised professionals with experience in translating video or film and using subtitling software.

AV translator and subtitler  Valentina Stagnaro  shares her insights into the skill and precision involved.

Valentina says she works like a surgeon while picking up words and making them fit into character limitations, “No doubt subtitling and interpreting share some common features, one being that they are essential and straight-to-the-point. I am not an interpreter myself but knowing some interpreting techniques I might say the common ground between the two skills is clear. I don’t know if it is the same in English, but in Italian, the first meaning of “interpreting” is “to understand and explain the true meaning of something”, so I think that this is the main point about both subtitling and interpreting: being able to understand the meaning, keeping it in your mind and adapting it to the different means in which you are working. I prefer considering my job in terms of effectiveness and the subtitles go completely unnoticed, as they should be.  Using subtitling software that uses different styles definitely is in my direction of working, as it gives you all the means to convey the message in the most clear and direct way, which is great!”


Credit Valentina Stagnaro: