The Difference between Translation and Interpretation


If you want a career in translation or interpretation, you have to know the difference between those two. They may sound similar because there are some similarities between them, but they are quite different. So, choose carefully before you fully commit because it can lead to a tough career. 

But what are the differences between translation and interpretation? Read on to discover them!

youtu.beTranslation vs. Interpretation

Translation and interpretation are linguistic disciplines that are closely related, but most of the time, they are not performed by the same people. There is a difference in training, aptitudes, skills, and knowledge. So, they can’t be done by the same person.

  • Translation

This job requires that you know the source language, the culture, the location from which the text originated and other factors that could improve the translation process. Translators will use a large library of dictionaries, manuals, reference materials and software applications to translate the document accurately and clearly for the target audience.

The most important quality that a translator should have is the ability to write well in the target language. Of course, you still need linguistic and cultural skills to do that, on top of other factors.

The interesting thing with translators is that there are individuals who can rarely express their thoughts well in a given subject in both languages. Some top-notch translators are not fully bilingual and because of these limitations, an excellent translator will only translate documents into his/her native language and not the other way around.

  • Interpretation

An interpreter can translate in both languages quickly. He can interpret without using manuals, dictionaries, software applications, reference materials and so on. They need a lot more skills than translators, like extraordinary listening abilities when they have to do simultaneous interpreting.

Simultaneous interpreters need to analyze, process and memorize the words from the source language in real-time so as to translate them into the target language. The interpreter translates the words that the speaker said ten seconds ago so that the process has a smooth flow to it.

Another difference between translating and interpreting is that interpreters must have excellent public speaking skills. Those qualities are needed to instantly transform colloquialisms, idioms, and expressions into statements so that the target audience understands them.

A good interpreter requires at least three years of experience for simultaneous interpreting and excellent note-taking techniques for multiple interpretations. A good interpreter must be familiar with both cultures and have an extensive knowledge of the topic that is about to be interpreted. 

He/she also needs to have an extensive vocabulary in both languages and the ability to express his/her thoughts clearly and accurately in both languages. As you can see, interpretation requires more training, more knowledge and more experience than translation. 

In the End

Translators have to do with written texts and use manuals, dictionaries and translating software. There is also a deadline for each project. 

However, interpreters deal with spoken language and need to translate orally. The process happens quickly, five to ten seconds are needed for the interpreter to analyze, process and translate the spoken words. It requires a lot more experience and knowledge. Also, interpreters do not use dictionaries or manuals.

So, if you want to sit at a desk and translate written text, then check out translation jobs. But, if you think that you got what it takes to be an interpreter, then go for this and you will probably earn more in the long run.

If you still can’t decide what to do, you can check  They also have some tips for you.