What are the Differences Between Interpreters and Translators?

by | Jul 11, 2022

Do you know the differences between interpreters and translators? If not, don’t worry – most people don’t. The two professions are often confused, but they have several key differences. 

This blog post will explore those differences and help you understand which is right for your business.

Differences Between Interpreters and Translators

Interpreters = Spoken Word. Translators = Written Word 

The medium they work with is the most fundamental difference between the two professions. 

Interpreters must be able to listen to someone speaking in one language and then interpret what they are saying into another language. On the other hand, translators must be able to read a written document in one language and then translate it into another language.

Interpreters also need to have an excellent understanding of both cultures involved in the interpretation. They need to understand not only the speaker’s words but also the body language, gestures, and overall meaning of what is said. Translators do not necessarily need to have this same level of cultural understanding, although it can certainly be helpful.

 

Interpreters = Real-Time. Translators = Own Pace

Interpreters must understand and interpret what is said in the moment. They cannot take breaks or ask for clarification – they have to be able to keep up with the speaker and provide an interpretation on the fly. 

On the other hand, translators can take their time to read and understand a written document before translating it into another language. This extra time allows them to look up words or concepts they are unfamiliar with and ensure that their translation is accurate.

Interpreters = Bi-Directional. Translators = One Direction

Interpreters must be able to interpret from one language into another and back again. 

So, if someone is speaking in English and they want an interpretation into Spanish, the interpreter must be able to understand the English and provide a Spanish interpretation. But then, if someone speaks in Spanish to the interpreter, they must be able to understand the Spanish and provide an English interpretation. 

Translators only need to be able to translate from one language into another at a time – they do not need to be able to translate back again. 

 

Interpreters = Consider Verbal Cues. Translators = Consider Only Words

As we mentioned before, interpreters need to understand both cultures involved in the interpretation. They not only have to understand the spoken words but also the body language, gestures, and overall meaning of what is being said. 

Translators do not necessarily need to have this same level of cultural understanding, although it can certainly be helpful. Sometimes this lack of cues can make it challenging to capture the true essence of the source material. 

 

Interpreters Are Not Equal to Translators

Interpreters work in real-time, and they cannot take breaks to look up unfamiliar words or concepts. Plus, there’s no way to review what was said, so they need to choose the best approximation rather than the most accurate. 

Translators can take their time to read and understand a written document before translating it, allowing them to ensure that their translation is accurate.

 

What are the Similarities Between Interpreters and Translators?

They both help bridge people from different cultures and languages. They both need to have a perfect understanding of at least two languages. And they both need to provide accurate translations.

If you need someone to help you communicate with people from another culture or language, you need an interpreter or a translator – or both! Now that you know the key differences between these two professions, you can choose which professional is right for your business needs.

Here at Day Interpreting and Day Translations, we have interpreters and translators specializing in many languages. So before your next event, meeting, or appointment, gives us a call, and we’ll send a language professional your way! 

Myles O'Bery
Myles O’Bery

Myles writes about Business, Fitness and Finance. When he isn’t writing he’s enjoying Thailand’s laid-back lifestyle.

Myles O'Bery

Myles writes about Business, Fitness and Finance. When he isn't writing he's enjoying Thailand's laid-back lifestyle.

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