What’s the Difference Between Translation and Interpretation?

What’s the Difference Between Translation and Interpretation?

For businesses to achieve global reach, they have to clearly communicate with international customers. To ensure that the best approach for working with clients is implemented, it is essential to enlist the help of a language services provider (LSP) for translation services, interpretation services, or a combination of both.

Although the two options have some similarities, there are key differences that will determine which one will be necessary to meet client’s requirements.

What is Translation?

Translation is the process of transforming written content from a source language to a target language in a way that is linguistically accurate, culturally appropriate, and resonates with the intended audience. Whether working on a basic document translation or an extensive clinical trial translation, translators should be native speakers of the languages and experts in the specific industry.

What is Interpretation?

Interpretation is the process of verbally relaying content and messages between two languages in real-time. Interpreters often work while the speaker is talking or right after the speaker has completed a few sentences. It is critical that interpreters accurately present both the information and the tone; this can be challenging, especially during remote interpretation services, when participants are in various locations.

What are the Main Differences Between (Translation vs. Interpretation) Them?

Although many people think of translation and interpretation services as being interchangeable, there are certain distinctions like the following:

  • They use separate mediums and formats: The most obvious difference between translation and interpretation is their modes of communication. Interpretation is conducted verbally, and interpreters specialize in oral communication. When professional interpretation services are required, they are conducted in person, on the phone, or via video conferences. While interpreters have to speak, translators have to write. Because they rely on their expertise with the written word, translators have to understand the mechanics, dialects, and cultural aspects of languages.
  • They require different amounts of time: Interpretation services are implemented in real-time; therefore interpreters have to be capable of delivering a message while a presenter is speaking. As such, interpreters have to be ready to comprehend and relay messaging without delays. In contrast, translation occurs after the source material is written, giving the translators some time to use reference materials and technology to achieve accurate, top-notch translations. However, there are times when on-demand translation services are required, decreasing the turnaround time for the translation.
  • Accuracy is vital for both, but different levels are needed: While precision is necessary for both types of work, the fast pace of language interpretation services often requires a slightly lower accuracy level than translation. Although interpreters strive for excellence, it can be challenging to achieve total accuracy in a live, fast-paced setting. As translators have more time to work on their projects, they can focus better on their output for accuracy. Additionally, translation companies will have a quality management system in place to ensure that the final product is precise.
  • The language direction requirements are unique: Since interpreters are fostering a conversation between two or more parties, they must be fluent in the source and target languages. This is especially important when working with groups that require multilingual interpreting services. Yet, translators typically work in a unidirectional manner, from the source language to the target language. They do not have to focus as much on being able to translate back and forth between languages.

What Skills Do Translators and Interpreters Need?

Translators and interpreters both require professional qualifications and a strong understanding of linguistics, but each profession calls for its unique skills.

Translators should have the following abilities and traits:

  • Curiosity and a desire to understand the cultures of speakers of both languages.
  • Excellent writing capabilities, along with an understanding of punctuation and grammar rules.
  • Native-level speaking abilities in the target language and fluency in the source language.
  • Proficiency in learning new technology and capabilities to use computer-assisted translation tools.
  • Dedication to their field and a goal to achieve accurate, meaningful, and relevant translations.

Interpreters should possess the following skills:

  • Strong listening capabilities, including a keen understanding of the meaning of words and the tone and body language of the speaker.
  • Proficiency in both languages, along with a vast knowledge of the terminology that will be used.
  • Ability to quickly process one language into another one.
  • Comfort with using remote simultaneous interpretation technology.
  • Excellent short-term memory skills, along with the ability to paraphrase information accurately.

As a company works toward globalizing, it will need translators or interpreters at some point. To determine the best approach, seek the assistance of a professional interpretation and translation services agency.


For businesses to achieve a global reach, they have to be able to communicate with international customers through translation or interpretation services accurately. Although the two services have some similarities, key differences will determine which one to use.

1 Comment

  1. James Norton

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