Translation and Interpretation: bridging cultures

June 23, 2017 11:15 am

The disciplines of translation and interpretation certainly seem to be the perfect jobs for language-lovers. To the untrained eye, however, the line between them is often blurred and sometimes they are even considered synonymous. Nevertheless, this is very much not the case. The central difference between them is relatively simple: translation is the art of transferring written text into a different language, while interpretation translates orally.

Translation-Bridging Cultures

Given this  core difference, few people can perform both jobs as it would require a very advanced skill-set. As a result, people wishing to enter the professional world of translation and interpretation often choose to join either the one or the other. In the end, however, both jobs have historically been in huge demand. The need for both simultaneous interpretation of speeches or translation of important documents has become increasingly more important in a globalising world. That is, in a world of about 196 countries and even more languages, the two disciplines become the core mechanisms of communication in many international organisations, such as the European Union.

Why doesn’t everyone learn English?

Well, why don’t we? If every soul on the planet learnt English, it would subsequently mean that translation and interpretation would be obsolete disciplines, which in the end would make global communication far easier. In an earlier article from TermCoord, we discussed if English really is the global language, but the reality is that English will only become a true global language if there is such a demand for it. If one looks at the world today, we can surely see that this is not the case. The number of spoken languages in our world is so extensive that a continuous need to translate and interpret will always exist. In a video from TEDx Talks Monterey, they answered this question with an important quote from Nelson Mandela.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Nelson Mandela, 1918 – 2013

A bridge between cultures

What Mhome_bannerandela meant to say is that we should never underestimate the value and importance of languages as they are a product of our cultural history. Indeed, every language on this planet has been shaped over thousands of years. Not only has this made the members of a specific culture experts at communicating with one another, but this evolutionary process has also led to the formation of words and phrases that are more suitable to that culture than any other. This is where translation and interpretation slide into focus. These disciplines work as mediators and cultural bridges between the nations in the world in order for us to co-operate on an international level.

In conclusion, the difference of languages used to be an inhibitor for co-operation to take place, but through the disciplines of translation and interpretation we are able to form meaningful and long-lasting bonds between us as a species.

Written by Oscar Larsson, Student at University of Glasgow, School of Social & Political Sciences and ex-Communication Trainee at Terminology Coordination Unit.

Post prepared  by Katerina Palamioti, Translator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee and Foodie at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament.


  • Introduction to Translation and Interpretation (Updated April 09, 2017 ). Available at: (Accessed: 22/06/2017)
  • Language, The Difference between Translation and Interpreting. Available at: (Accessed: 22/06/2017)
  • The Number of Countries in the World (Updated June 15, 2017). Available at: (Accessed: 22/06/2017)
  • Stephen R. Anderson, How Many Languages Are There in the World? (2012) Available at: (Accessed: 22/06/2017)
  • Laura Burian, Barry Olsen, and Miguel Garcia, More than words | Laura Burian, Miguel Garcia & Barry Olsen | TEDxMonterey (video: 2014) Available at: (Accessed: 22/06/2017)

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