On a superficial level, the difference between the two is often one of merely the “medium”: Translation involves the written text, while interpretation concerns the oral conversion from one language to another. Used in a more complex, nuanced sense, however, both can involve oral and written communication; the difference being, translation encompasses the conversion of one language into another, whether orally or in written form, whereas interpretation involves the meaning behind the words translated.
We do this with ease each and every day; of listening to voices and sounds, warnings and admonitions, directions and requests — interpreting their meaning, force, relevance and impact as we live our lives. We may translate the body language of another into what we deem as their “meaning”; or visit a foreign country with a dictionary in hand and attempt to comprehend the words and phrases spoken all around us.
We also interpret what is being said — of the content of the collective words and phrases jettisoned from mouths flapping words and emitting sounds, and how we interpret what we hear can make a difference in what we do, how we react and why we engage in the acts we embrace. Law is an interpretive process, as well as a procedure involving translation. It is a different kind of a language game involving statutes, case-laws and precedents that must undergo the complex translation and interpretation process.
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, it is important to consult with a FERS Disability Retirement Attorney who specializes in the translation and interpretation of Federal OPM Disability Retirement Law.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire