The Language Professions


Translation is an activity based on written communication. The translator acts as an intermediary between speakers of different languages and cultures. A translator’s work consists of transposing the content of a written document from one language to another while remaining faithful to the message and meaning of the original document. Translators also take into account the kind of text, the target audience and the degree of specialization of the text. Translators possess not only a very good knowledge of the language of the “source” text but also an excellent knowledge of the target language, which ideally is their mother tongue. Translators also have writing and research skills, as well as knowledge in specialized areas.

Some translators work with texts of a general nature while others specialize. Some translators are employed by organizations or companies, while others freelance. Certified translators abide by the code of ethics of their professional association.

Interpretation is an activity based on spoken communication. Interpreters facilitate oral communication among people of different languages and cultures.


There are two main kinds of interpretation: 1) conference interpreting, which is used in a variety of contexts, such as conferences, press conferences, meetings, etc.; and 2) court interpreting, which consists of interpreting what is said before the courts.

In the course of their work, interpreters may perform “consecutive” or “simultaneous” interpretation. In consecutive, the interpreter will provide an interpretation after the speaker has finished. In simultaneous, interpreters deliver their message as they are listening to the speaker.

Consecutive interpretation is used more in small groups or when an individual needs the service. Simultaneous interpretation is used at larger gatherings, in which case it is not uncommon to see teams of interpreters of various language combinations working at the same time. Simultaneous interpretation is carried out in soundproof booths equipped to enable the interpreters to hear the speaker and for the participants to hear the interpreters.

Interpretation is demanding work, which is why interpreters often work in teams of two or three people who alternate.


Terminology deals with things and how they are named. It involves analysis and standardization of vocabulary in a given area of specialization. Terminologists gather documentation on a specific area of activity or technique, then compile the terminology used, find the corresponding definitions and enter them into databases or works, such as glossaries. Terminologists also look for equivalents of terms used in other languages. A terminologist’s work may also involve creating terms used by a company or organization, in order to standardize them and thereby facilitate communication.