Differences between Translation and Interpreting

Published on 06/06/2022

Interpreting and translation professionals perform jobs that may be confused, but the goal is completely different. In this article we will clear up any doubts about both services, which are the pillars communication is build on. Transferring a written or oral text into a different language, always comes with challenges and require professionals with specific linguistic and communication skills.

Índice de contenidos

Index of contents

Index du contenu


  1. Interpreting
  2. Translation
  3. What are the requirements for both services?

1. Interpreting

The interpreter is often present in TV ad appears next to heads of state meet, who don’t use the same communicative code. So basically politicians who don’t speak the same language.

An interpreter always translates orally the message of a transmitter in one language into the target language of the receiver. There are different interpreting types. For example simultaneous interpreting, which consists in interpreting the message at the same time the transmitter is speaking. While consecutive interpreting means listening to the message, taking notes, and reproducing the message in a different language afterwards.

The interpreter’s task is essential not only in political contexts, but also in medical environment, for people who suffer from some kind of inconvenient situation in a foreign country, whether it is an arrest or a health condition.

Interpreting is an on-post service that can be provided face-to-face, over the phone or via video call. Professional interpreters need to master two different languages and also be able to express the messages in the correct tone and register.

2. Translation

Transferring a text from one language into another is what we call translation. A professional translator uses all kinds of tools available, generally computer assisted translation tools, to translate a text from one language into another. Translation is very a very relevant service in today’s globalised world, since international trade means that a company's website needs to be available in different languages to be competitive or someone interlingual business communication via e-mails.

In contrast to interpreting services, the translator has more time when translating and is able to consult any material, parallel texts or encyclopaedia to find correct meanings.

The field of translation is very broad, ranging from legal texts, web pages, scripts or manuals. The translator is practically a craftsman and must be able to capture the essence of the original language and reconstruct the correct meaning in the target language. Professional translators are experts in finding the relevant information and are therefore able to deliver natural sounding and accurate translations.

A very common mistake among companies is to trust in machine translation for their texts. Those translation machines can help to get a general idea of the text’s message, but machine translation will never reach the level of accuracy and are not able to find the correct semantic meaning.

You only need to take a quick look at some websites and you will see the difference between companies that used machine translation (creating a negative image of their brand) vs. the ones who used human translation. That’s why you should always trust in professional translation services.

3. What are the requirements for both services?

Both professional profiles require one and the same skill: rigour. While the interpreter is free to use certain expressions, to omit parts or use non-verbal language, both require an accurate transmission of the source message as natural as possible. Rigour, knowing how to give interpret the correct meanings and knowing how to properly transfer. Those are the main skills interpreters and translators should have.

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Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

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