Sight Translation: What Is It and When Do You Need It?

Sight Translation: What Is It and When Do You Need It?

Your guide to sight translation – what it is, when to use it, and best practices.

There are three main modes of translation – consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation, and sight translation.

Unlike consecutive and simultaneous interpretation (both oral translation services), sight translation involves written and oral cross-language communication. Learn more about consecutive vs. simultaneous interpreting here.

What’s the difference between sight translation and standard translation?

Sight translation takes the best and most challenging aspects of both interpretation and translation and combines them into one discipline.

Translators have more time than interpreters to translate written documents from one language to another. This allows them to source the most accurate translation possible, do additional research when necessary, and sort through jargon-dense phrases.

Interpreters use another skill set, requiring an incredible memory to retain the words spoken in the source language while interpreting into their destination language. This is done either simultaneously with the speaker or in consecutive breaks.

Sight translation combines both interpretation types, requiring the translator to communicate a text’s original language to speech in another language.

When is sight translation used?

This style of translation is most used in medical and judicial settings, although you can also find it used in business from time to time. It is valued for its ability to facilitate communicating critical messages and documents.

Medical settings often benefit from sight translation when dealing with specific, clear, and easily retainable patient instructions. The healthcare provider must remain present during the translation to answer questions as they arise. Interpreters can sight translate non-vital documents like registration or financial aid forms, surveys, accident reports for workman’s comp, work excuses, appointment reminder cards, and referrals as long as a provider remains present.

Legal settings use sight translation for deposition transcripts, translating written witness statements in court, and various other documents, including indictments, peace bonds, bail and probation conditions, and conditional and suspended sentences.

Business proceedings and conferences with a more international audience often benefit from this type of interpreter to aid in communicating written documents.

When in doubt, sight translation is often best for:

  • Short and easy to understand documents
  • Specific and clear instructions
  • Documents with minimal legal terms or jargon
  • Key points that the listener can easily remember

When shouldn’t you use sight translation?

If you’re working with confidential information, it might need to be translated in writing by a professional translator (meaning it can’t be sight translated.)

Documents that are:

  • Lengthy
  • Incredibly detailed or complicated
  • Jargon-heavy
  • Challenging for the listener to retain
  • Needed for later reference (and must be in writing)
  • Confidential and contain sensitive patient- or institution-related information
  • Focused on financial agreements, consent forms, or highly technical information

In a medical setting, sight translation is not advisable for documents with extensive educational material or background information (like HIPPA or the Patient Bill of Rights.) Due to their lengthy technical nature, it’s often pointless to read them aloud to a patient unlikely to remember specifics.

In these instances, it’s better to hire a translator who can create a translated document for your listener to read through themselves. This way they can fully understand the content and refer to it later on.

Onsite interpreters are often asked to do quick sight translations. While many interpreters can easily handle the task, it’s important to remember that interpreters and translators specialize in different skills. But whether you’re looking for certified interpreters or translators who can also provide sight translation – we at Arriva are here to help.

With over 5,000 translators and interpreters in our network, qualified in 200+ unique languages and dialects, we at Arriva Translations pride ourselves in offering bespoke, top-of-the-line, white-glove translation and interpretation services to clients in the legal, financial, and medical industries.

Reach out to schedule your interpreter today – We’re excited to meet you!