In the world of communication, two words are often used interchangeably: interpretation and translation. Granted, both words are extremely similar to one another. Yes, they are both found almost 100% of the time in the same context. Yes, they both involve the transfer of information from one person to another.
But, interpretation and translation are not the same thing. In fact, these two words are much more different than you may realize. By definition, to translate is to change a word or set of words from one language to another; to change the form, condition, or nature of; to explain in terms that can be more easily understood. On the other hand, to interpret is to give or provide the meaning of; to explain; to construe or understand in a particular way to bring out the meaning of (a dramatic work, music, etc.) by performance or execution; to perform or render (a song, role in a play, etc.) according to one’s own understanding or sensitivity.
Perhaps a few examples (mistakes) will make this a bit clearer. First, let’s look at translation…
Pee Cola – A very popular carbonated beverage bottled in Ghana, Pee Cola translated from the local language means “very good cola”. However, when seen for the first time by English speakers, the brand name has a much different, less appetizing meaning.
Lumia by Nokia – Nokia’s smartphone translates in Spanish slang to prostitute, which is unfortunate, but at least the cell phone giant is in good company. The name of international car manufacturer Peugeot translates in southern China to Biao zhi, which means the same thing.
Barf detergent – In Iran, where this detergent is manufactured, the word barf means “snow.” Outside of Iran, where this detergent is sold, it brings to mind something a tad less white.
Errors in translation can bring about serious consequences. If particular words are not properly translated from one language to the other, an entire message can fall apart. On the other hand, when it comes to interpretation, if errors occur, the results can be just as negative, but slightly different. For example, body language can often be misunderstood and misinterpreted. When two people are talking, if one or both speakers are crossing their arms, it is often interpreted as anger or defensiveness. Likewise, a simple smile can often convey more meaning and affection than one intends. The idea is that to interpret is to assume a deeper, more emotional meaning.
What type of transfer of information is your company looking for? Do you simply need words traded for words, or are you looking for a deeper, more emotionally sensitive transfer? At CORE Languages, we are ready and waiting to assist you in any and every language and communication need you may have.