“Language mediator” is the generic term for the job titles of “translator” and “interpreter”, that is, for persons who transfer a certain written and/or spoken language (the “source language”) into another language (the so-called “target language”) (language mediation).
Translators work with texts – that is, written language – while interpreters deal with spoken language (or even sign language).
Translators usually translate texts from the source language into a target language. For instance, literary translators ensure that the author’s books are not only published in the source language, but can be read across the world (at least in theory). However, translators are certainly used in other areas as well: they translate letters, documents, directions, contracts, and much more.
Interpreters are used when conversations, talks, and discussions between different parties need to be made intelligible for everyone involved. This may be the case in the private domain, but also in Court or at conferences. While interpretation takes place in both directions (the interpreter constantly switches between the source and the target language) when it comes to conversations, it often occurs that the interpreter only interprets from one language into another at conferences or during presentations. More precisely, the interpreter interprets what is said by the speaker for a group of listeners who do not master the speaker’s language. In such cases, simultaneous interpreters are often used: they have to listen to what is being spoken and interpret simultaneously.
Profound knowledge of both the source language and the target language is a prerequisite for translating and interpreting. This includes knowledge of the respective vocabulary and grammar. However, this is not all. Being fluent in the respective languages and mastering them correctly does not automatically make a good language mediator, i.e. translator/interpreter – regardless of whether spoken (or sign) or written language is concerned.
Many language mediators specialize in certain fields which require specialist vocabulary and, possibly, specialist knowledge, for example in the fields of technology, law, medicine, etc.
In addition, knowledge of the cultural background of the respective languages is part of any good language mediator’s competence. Specific training courses or seminars and certifications aid in quality management.