Interpretations and Translations both work interchangeably. However, there are clear differences between these closely associated language disciplines. While picking the services, it is important to know about their difference.

Table of Content

  1. Difference between Translator and Interpreter
    1. The Basic Difference
    2. Skills and Requirements for Translators
    3. Skills and Requirements for Interpreters
  2. Translation vs Interpretation
  3. Translation
    1. What are the Different Types of Translation?
    2. How do Translators Work?
  4. Interpretation
    1. What are the Different Types of Interpretation?
    2. How do Interpreters Work?
  5. The Essence of Translation and Interpretation
    1. Format
    2. Delivery
    3. Accuracy
    4. Direction
    5. Intangibles
    6. Charges and Payments
    7. Mother Tongue
    8. Time
    9. Tools
  6. Conclusion
  7. Read More

The Basic Difference

A person who uses written text is known as a translator. On the other hand, an interpreter is a person who translates verbally and works through words. The same person can perform both professions, owing to the difference in training, language, skill sets, and awareness required in delivering them.

In short, interpretation is a verbal representation of a foreign speaker’s meaning. While translation provides the written meaning of a foreign text.

Skills and Requirements for Translators

The translator focuses on translating a document from one language to another. He also works in a single direction. Mostly their mother language is their target language. However, for accurate translation, translators should be highly skilled in the subject matter and source language. Usually translators, for supporting their work, take the assistance of dictionaries and other reference materials.
Therefore, hours can be spent translating a single document. Remember, that translation is not just exchanging words. It is about producing an expressive piece of content. In short, content expresses both the meaning and context of a document.

Skills and Requirements for Interpreters

Interpreters don’t have time for dictionaries and grammar books, etc. Because they have to give results as quickly as possible. They require extraordinary listening capability. Simultaneous interpreters within seconds translate, memorize, and process words to the target language from the source language.
The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), reports that a skilled interpreter will interpret up to 150 words per minute. Above all, interpreters should have public speaking abilities, self-confidence, and significant awareness of both the source and target language. Interpreters can immediately convert idioms, sayings, colloquialisms, and other traditional nuances in a short time.

Translation vs Interpretation

The primary difference between translation and interpretation can be seen in their skill sets and service medium. In short, translators can translate written words. On the other hand, interpreters are used for translating verbal language. Both services necessitate deep linguistic and cultural understanding, communication skills, and awareness of the subject matter.

1. Translation

The major difference between translators and interpreters is that most professional translators use CAT tools in their work. Additionally, for ensuring a good quality of work, the translator goes through every section of the text. It may also take aid from translating style guides and dictionaries.

Finally, for proofreading, they’ll pass the translated content to another linguist. The content is then converted back to its original form. Translators work on all written information. For instance, prints, websites, multimedia, software, and video subtitles.

1.1 What are the Different Types of Translation?

There are so many types of translation. Technical translation, legal translation, medical translation, financial translation, insurance translation, and literary translation are just some of the popular names. But no matter the translation type, each requires specific skills and in-depth knowledge of the relevant field.

For instance, in order to provide literary translation, a translator must possess creativity and also have a great eye for linguistic nuances in the content.
However, if the job requires technical translation, then a translator must have a solid understanding of technical terms and vocabulary.

1.2 How do Translators Work?

Translators simply translate messages and words from one language into another. The thing is, translators require more time to do their work as compared to interpreters. Because, unlike interpreters, translators don’t have room for giving estimated results.

For example, medical, technical and legal translation requires perfect translations which demands time. But sometimes clients demand instant work. Therefore, translators always take the assistance of countless reference materials, glossaries, and CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools.

In short, for a perfect translation, translators require complete knowledge regarding variations, such as idioms of the target language. Translators need to pay attention to the traditional effects of some signs. Above all, translators should have a proper understanding of the mutual cultural activities of the land.

Besides, translators should have technical knowledge. Technical awareness will enable translators to prepare a translated document. Every translating document is an assignment. Cyracom once said that the translator should be involved in any given project he is working on.

2. Interpretation

Interpretation is a service that instantly takes place. In other words, it works very quickly. It is performed live, instantly after the completion of the original speech. It does not require any support from dictionaries, reference materials, or scripts. Experienced interpreters convert the original language within context, maintaining its original meaning.

However, it reshapes colloquialisms, idioms, and other traditional references, in such a way that the target audience can easily understand. There are three resources that interpreters usually use. They are quick reflexes, good memory, and experience. Interpreters work on tasks including live translation. For example, sign language, conferences, meetings, legal proceedings, medical appointments, and live TV coverage.

2.1 What are the Different Types of Interpretation?

Just like translation, interpretation has various types. Depending on how the interpretation is delivered, the main types of interpretation are consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation, bilateral interpretation, and sign language interpretation. There are also many types depending on the mode or medium using which the interpretation happens. This includes whispered or chuchotage interpretation which occurs when an interpreter explains things by whispering. Other types include OPI or over–the–phone interpretation, in-person interpretation, and remote interpretation. Remote interpretation has further sub-types, such as VRI or video remote interpretation and RSI or remote simultaneous interpretation.

2.2 How do Interpreters Work?

Interpretation is not as easy as it may seem. It is quite a difficult job. While working, interpreters deal with countless technical issues. These issues are different from one another in two kinds of interpretation. The first is consecutive and the second is simultaneous interpretation. The interpreter is inside a booth, during simultaneous translation.

Interpreters use a microphone, headset and communicate in the target language. This process takes place at the same time when a speaker speaks in the original language. This procedure is very exhausting and challenging. Therefore, simultaneous interpreters work in shifts. Mostly, these shifts are 20 and 30 minutes.

However, in the consecutive translation, the interpreter and speaker are in the same chamber. The interpreter waits for the pause of the speaker and takes notes. After that, the interpreter interprets the former part of what the speaker said. This overall process is quite difficult. For instance, a speaker may speak too fast, which can become a problem for the interpreter to note what he said.

Additionally, interpreters can be unfamiliar with the pauses of the speaker. Therefore, the interpreter gives signals to the speaker to take a pause. This is both confusing and sensitive for the interpreter and speaker.

The Essence of Translation and Interpretation

Qualified interpreters can work as diplomatic mediators and worthy public speakers. Yet, the main issue is that the interpreters have to provide quick results. It does not matter whether the speaker is speaking in simultaneous interpretation or taking pauses in consecutive interpretation. This can take place in the booth, during the live broadcast, or during telephone, or video conferences.

Usually, interpreters avoid using dictionaries or other reference materials, especially in the case of consecutive translations. For carrying out this process, an interpreter must have a good memory, experience, and quick reflexes. There are things that are left out while interpretation. Therefore, interpreters have to be experienced in both target and source languages. Moreover, they don’t require the support of glossaries in most cases.

Lastly, interpreters deal with several intangible elements. They have to hook up with all the idioms, analogies, and metaphors used by the speaker. Above all, interpreters should note the voice quality, tone, inflections, and other exclusive elements of the words used. After that, it should convey these oral signs to the audience.

There are many differences between interpretation and translation. Therefore, we have gathered a few main differences explained below;

1. Format

The first major difference between the two is that translation deals with written data or text. An interpretation is about interpreting the verbal data given by the speaker.

2. Delivery

Interpretation can give instant results. It can take place over the phone, through video, or in person. However, translation can be done after creating the source text. As a result, translators have ample time to take support of dictionaries, reference materials, and technologies for providing high-quality translations.

3. Accuracy

Interpreters require a lower level of accuracy. They do aim for perfection, but it’s quite difficult to attain it in a live setting. In fact, some of the dialogues may be left out while interpreting the target language. Yet again, time favors translators when it comes to editing and reviewing the written data for accuracy.

4. Direction

Interpreters must be experts in both the target and source language. Additionally, interpreters need to translate in both directions and give immediate results. They don’t take help from reference materials. On the other hand, translators normally work in a single direction, which is their mother tongue.

5. Intangibles

Forming idioms, analogies, and metaphors according to the culture of the target audience is a challenge for both translators and interpreters. Above all, interpreters should capture the voice quality, tone, inflections, and other essentials of the verbal words. They are expected to deliver these aural cues to the audience.

6. Charges and Payments

Another difference between interpreters and translators is regarding their payments. Interpreters charge their services per working hour or working day. On the other hand, translators charge their services in accordance with words written or words written in an hour or per page.

7. Mother Tongue

Translators work only in their mother tongues. In short, translators can translate a foreign language into their native language. On the other hand, interpreters interpret data in and from their mother tongue.

8. Time

It is true that to some extent time is in favor of translators. This means thereby, translators take support of glossaries. They are usually not required to do translation instantly. But interpreters should interpret data accurately without changing the meaning of the message on the spot.

9. Tools

Last but not least, another major difference between translators and interpreters is the use of tools. As everybody knows, translators may use CAT tools (Assisted Translation or Computer-Aided), computers, dictionaries, and other referencing materials. On the other hand, interpreters use microphones, headphones, or a notepad and pen for capturing notes. Besides, interpreters focus on their excellent memory and vast knowledge.


Now we are well aware of the difference between interpreters and translators. You can explore them by using particular translation services. If you want to translate official content like a legal document, try these services. Even though translators and interpreters widely share similar proficiencies, a language services provider can take your work to a completely another level. Meaning thereby, translators and interpreters can do a lot for you.

The working of both professions is extremely difficult and important at the same time. Each has its qualities, specifications, and requirements. And most importantly, the key to a globally successful business is to have direct communication with audiences. It will boost your content in local markets. And it is only possible with the help of translation and interpretation services.

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  3. 10 Major Types of Interpretation
  4. How to Choose the Right Interpretation Services
  5. Top 10 Translation and Localization Companies in the World