DEAR ABBY: I'm writing about your answer to "An International Educator" (Dec. 27), who asked about translators at parent-teacher conferences. Your answer was only partially correct.
I am a professional interpreter and translator. First I should note that translators do written work; interpreters speak aloud. Different skills are involved, which is why there are different terms.
Second, during interpretation, the interpreter is not considered to be part of the conversation, just a "conduit" through which communication takes place. Persons being interpreted for do not need to look at the interpreter while facilitating their communication.
A professional interpreter will interpret everything that is said; for example, they will not leave out curse words or "filter" or embellish anything. They also try to approximate the same voice tone.
I should also note that professional interpreters are bound by privacy codes much like doctors and nurses. We are not allowed to divulge any information we have learned from our interpretation jobs. Another thing to realize is that a professional interpreter (or translator) will be completely neutral, regardless of who hired him/her or with which party he/she enters the room.
If someone is using a non-professional interpreter, a person who just happens to know both languages but has not had the training to be an interpreter, he/she may not adhere to these privacy or conduct codes, and their interpretations may not be of the best quality. Just knowing two languages does not guarantee that someone is capable of doing accurate interpretations (the same goes for translations). -- ONE WHO KNOWS IN KANSAS
DEAR O.W.K.: Thank you for clarifying the difference between the two terms. You were one of many readers who wrote to explain it, and I'm glad you did.