Translation vs. Interpretation

Translation vs. Interpretation: Do You Know the Key Differences?

Many companies around the world have started to achieve huge revenues by globalizing their businesses. This could never be done without using various language services.

Although translation and interpretation may be the same in terms of communicating the meaning of a source language to the targeted one, they are different in many aspects. This means that you have to learn their distinctions before selecting your service.

What Is Translation?

  • The translation is conveying an original written text of one language to another one including the message, idioms, and verbal signs.
  • It is about a written text which a translator delivers to the target language using his tools such as dictionaries, software tools, glossaries, and other reference materials.
  • While a translator should possess both the linguistic and cultural backgrounds, he cares more about the written text.

What is Interpretation?

  • Interpretation is an immediate service that happens either during a live speech or after it.
  • An interpreter does not have dictionaries, scripts, or glossaries. He/she depends only on his experience, knowledge, and memory.
  • Interpreters also need to be fluent in both languages with an exceptional listening ability.
  • They should not have to be perfect since they care more about the meaning and culture of both languages.
  • Interpreters most commonly work on live projects such as conferences, video calls, live TV coverages, and online meetings.
  • With the increase of globalization, business owners find themselves exposed to different languages, and thus they need interpreters to communicate with business stakeholders during business meetings and live conference calls.

Differences between Translation and Interpretation

Personal Skills

  • On the one hand, an interpreter should be a good listener as he/she translates on the spot. They have to be fast in perceiving the meaning of the spoken discourse to transfer it as fast as it can be to the audience. That is why interpreters need to have the ability to work under stress.
  • On the other hand, a translator should be a good writer in terms of selecting the right linguistic rules and punctuation.


  1. A translator is accurate as his/her main concern is delivering the same meaning into a written text taking into account the punctuation and grammatical rules.
  2. Perfection is the last thing for an interpreter to care about. His/her main target is to paraphrase the same meaning into the target language considering the culture, body language, and tone of voice.


  • While translators should have strong background about the culture of the target language, they also have to be talented in using written materials such as dictionaries, glossaries, and scripts. Most translators are native in the target language and fluent in the source one.
  • An interpreter translates based on his experience, cultural knowledge, and vocabulary memory.

Top 4 Industries That Use Translation and Interpretation


  • Since health and medicine are global industries, it is always prerequisite for a hospital or a clinic to have interpreters to translate oral communication between patients and doctors to avoid any medical mistakes.
  • Medical booklets, dosages, prescriptions, and other medical instructions need to be translated.


  • Interpretation in needed in all media industries such as TV programs, music, films, live shows and concerts.
  • Art and entertainment achieve huge revenues and this could not be done without translation as everything is exposed to people from different languages. Translation is needed for subtitling the audio visual content to be available for people from other languages. Most streaming services now have their films, TV shows and other media available in many languages.
  •  Websites and mobile applications are now localized into the culture of various targeted languages.


  • In towns that have people speak different languages, interpreters are needed in offices and courtrooms.
  • Translation is also used in the law industry to translate legal documents, cases, verdicts, certificates…etc.


  • In global business, interpreters are needed to translate oral meetings and videos of clients, partners, and stake holders.
  • Translation have become necessary if the business is expanded globally especially in the technology industry. Software documents, marketing materials, and website contents need to be localized.

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