5 Ways Translators and Interpreters Differ

5 Ways Translators and Interpreters Differ

When your business works globally, you need to be able to effectively communicate with the audiences in other countries using their native languages fluently and as flawlessly as the local communities would. This can include interpretation of your marketing content, translating services or both. Both of these are linguistic services that are closely related to each other.

1. Similarities

In some cases, both translation and interpretation are cited interchangeably, but they each play their distinctive roles in certain types of business situations. The main difference between interpretation and translation will lie in each business’ medium. Interpretation is done when translating spoken languages orally. The translation is completed in the written word.

Both professions have a deep linguistic and cultural understanding of the languages they are familiar with. They learn expert knowledge on subject matters that pertain to the business at hand and can communicate effectively and clearly. Knowing the real differences between interpreters and translators can help you choose the best one for your business.

2. Differences

Interpretation – Interpretation is not simply translating word for word of spoken messages. If this was the case, the result of the interpretation may not make sense to the intended audience. Languages are often constructed in very different ways. Interpreters are experts at transposing and paraphrasing the message in the context. They do this while preserving the intended meaning while rephrasing colloquialisms, idioms and other references that are culturally specific.

Translation – Translators often use technology and devices when working. They will use devices to convert the content source into a file type that they can work with, usually RTF. As a translator works through the text section by section, they have to use style guides and glossaries to make sure the content is good quality and retains its original meaning. Once completed, they will pass their translated scripts to another linguist for them to proofread.

3. Spoken vs Text

Interpreters are known for their expert proficiency in spoken communications, but translators need to have superb written skills. They commonly specialize in specific fields and are perfectionists by nature. They have to translate, adhere to the style and tone of the content and follow accuracy and grammar rules along the way.

4. Determine the Services You Need

Delivery – A key difference between interpretation and translation is the timing of the delivery. Interpretation services are completed in real-time. This can occur over the phone, in person or via video. Translation services, on the other hand, can be completed well after the text or conversation has occurred. This gives translators plenty of time to use their devices and technology to generate high-quality, accurate translations.

Accuracy – Interpretation services do not require as high a level of accuracy during translation as translators do. Interpreters do try to perfectly interpret a live setting, but sometimes bits of the original speech can get left out from the target audience. When it comes to translation services, time is more on their side when it comes to accuracy.

Direction – Interpreters have to be fluid in both languages because they need to translate both ways without needing to reference materials. Professional translators commonly work with one language direction, and it is typically their mother tongue. This means they are only required to remain fluent in their language.

5. Intangibles

The ability to make idioms, metaphors and analogies that will resonate with the target audiences can be a challenge for both translators and interpreters alike. In addition to this, interpreters are required to be able to capture inflections, tones, voice quality and other unique components of the spoken speech and convey those verbally to the audience without hesitation.


Now you can easily see the main differences and similarities between translators and interpreters. Deciding which you need to hire for your business depends on your specific translating requirements. Consider how technical the content needing to be translated is or what type of medium you will

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