Definition of Interpreting

Interpreting is used — and misused — often in the English language. In the context of the language services industry, here are two official definitions:

 
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Interpreting (ISO)

Rendering a spoken or signed message into another spoken or signed language, preserving the register and meaning of the source language content.
— International Organization for Standardization (ISO) International Standard 13611: Interpreting: Guidelines for Community Interpreting, 2014

Interpreting (ASTM)

The process of first fully understanding, analyzing, and processing a spoken or signed message and then faithfully rendering it into another spoken or signed language.
— ASTM International, F2089, Standard Practice for Language Interpreting, 2015

In other words, interpreting converts the meaning of the source language into the target language.


 

Interpreting and Communicative Autonomy

Interpreting takes place in many settings and for many reasons, yet at heart the purpose of interpreting is to facilitate communication between parties who do not share a common language. Trained, qualified interpreters faithfully interpret for all parties without adding, omitting or changing the message. And yet, their professionalism not only enables direct communication, it also supports communicative autonomy.

 

Communicative Autonomy

The capacity of each party in an encounter to be responsible for and in control of his or her own communication.
— Bancroft, M.A. et al. (2015). The Community Interpreter®: An International Textbook. Columbia, Maryland: Culture & Language Press
ccc director marjory bancroft (right) delivering 2018 keynote at the arizona translators and interpreters’ association annual conference

ccc director marjory bancroft (right) delivering 2018 keynote at the arizona translators and interpreters’ association annual conference


 

Interpreting versus Translation

Interpreting and translation are not the same thing! While many professional interpreters are translators and vice versa, interpreting and translation are two separate professions with different codes of ethics, educational requirements and certifications.

 
 
 

Interpreting

Rendering a message orally, or in signed language, from one language into another.

Translation

Rendering a written text from one language to another in writing. Learn more about translation.