Open Translation Tools


While translation relates to written rendering of source texts, interpreting refers to the spoken transfer of speeches or negotiations. Interpreting occurs more or less in real-time or with a very short time lack in presence of all parties involved.

Interpreters need very specific skills and a special training. They are highly qualified as they havew to process two languages in "real time" at the same time as they have to transfer ideas and thought patterns from one language and culture into another.

There are a few main types of interpreting that require different specific skills:

  1. Simultaneous Interpreting:  The interpretor listens to the speaker, renders the spoken words into the target language, checks him- or herself and listens to the speaker again. This involves the ability for multitasking in the real sense of the word. This task also requires the ability to highly concentrate and can only be done for a very restricted period of time. Therefore, simultaneous interpreting is mostly done in teams. The size of the teams, among other things, depend on the languages to be covered. The interpreters sit in booths which can be located directly in the conference room or outside. If the latter is the case, the usually have sight to a video wall, so that they can see the speakers. This helps to improve the quality of the service, as they see the body language of the speaker.
  2. Consecutive Interpreting:  This task involves a special note-taking technique. The interpreter provides the audience with the interpretation after the speaker has finished with his or her contribution.
  3. Whisper Interpreting: This kind of interpreting is used when a small delegations are involved. This is kind of simultaneous interpreting without any equipment. The skills required are the same as in item 1. 

Interpreting Sign Languages

Sign languages are a group of languages in the same way that spoken languages are a group. Each language is a distinct language with its own grammar and vocabulary, there are over a hundred sign languages and typically only half of the people speaking a sign language are deaf.

Many sign languages received an official status in the last fourty to fifty years and from that time many  have been adopted in education and in some countries news programs have added an interpreting service in sign language.

As the basis of sign languages is based in movements and not in sound, the familiar writing systems are not applicable to them. In language research there have been several attempts to come up with a way to annotate sign languages and these did not lead to a writing system that was useful in day to day writing. The SignWriting script, developed by Mrs Valerie Sutton, however has been developed in over thirty years into a script that can be used for writing any sign language.

SignWriting is being adopted in education and, research has shown that the general rule that kids who learn to read and write in their mother tongue benefit for the rest of their academic career equally applies to sign languages. This adoption of sign languages is taking place but the one big hurdle is that there are so many sign languages and they all have no material to start with. The biggest technical hurdle is that while SignWriting is recognised as a script, there is no Unicode support for it.

At this stage most of the translations done into or from sign languages is one of interpreting or the real time translation of a conversation. There are people who have started to translate the bible into ASL or the American sign language and this effectively is one of the best signs of sign languages as a language that is being written.