Much has been said about this subject. Several websites, blogs, agencies, etc. have expressed their definitions, explanations and lists of similarities and differences.
Some opinions sound very well founded, clearly coming from professionals in the field. Others seem to have been researched and written by an outsider who needed to submit something to the editor by the end of the day.
And in true human fashion, the general public either does not care or refuses to even know the basic difference:
- interpreters = oral
- translators = written
Now, why are there two different names for the profession? After all, if an engineer writes, draws or speaks, the job title is still “engineer”. And the same applies to doctors, plumbers, carpenters, teachers, bank robbers, you name it.
Well, simply put, the main reason is that they are in fact two different professions with different sets of skills, different settings or work environments, different rates, and often performed by different people. Not every translator does interpreting and not every interpreter translates written words. Sometimes, it’s a matter of preference, but it can also be due to their education, skills, place of employment, etc.