In the past this blog has drawn attention to the sloppy use of terminology by the BBC and others, confusing translators with interpreters.

As some media types seem incapable of dealing with too many words, here’s a handy illustrated guide for them (all images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Firstly, a translator in the pre-digital age.

image of St Jerome

A pre-digital age translator at work

The bearded chap scribbling away is St. Jerome, one of the fathers of the Catholic Church, renowned for his translation into Latin of the Vulgate Bible.

Nowadays, a modern translator is more likely to be scribbling away using the kit in the picture below.

image of a translator's desk

A modern translator’s desk

Note the keyboard, screen and dictionaries. The written word is clearly involved here.

Next we have a couple of conference interpreters.

image of conference interpreters in action

Conference interpreters in action

Note the use of headsets and microphones. The spoken word is in evidence here.

However, interpreters sometimes use the written word to take notes, as shown here, but this is merely to assist in remembering long passages of spoken words.

image of President Barack Obama meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office Thursday, May 28, 2009.  The man sitting between them is an interpreter.

On the left Mahmoud Abbas, on the right Barack Obama. Between them sits a White House interpreter taking notes while POTUS speaks.

Confused by translators and interpreters? You shouldn’t be! We’re here to help nation write and speak respectively to nation! 😉