Interpreters and Translators are not the same. Here’s the difference.

People often confuse interpreters and translators. While they might both work in the world of ‘decoding’ and relaying information, they are not the same. Let’s consider some of the key differences between these two professionals.

In simple terms, interpretation is spoken while translation is written. This also means that interpretation takes place in real time (or very close to it) and requires the interpreter to think on their feet while listening to one language and speaking in another. While interpreters use spoken words to convey their message, translators transfer a written text from one language to another for a new target audience, working at their own pace.

Interpreters need to be fluent mother tongue and bi-lingual speakers. Working in two directions, the interpreter acts as a go-between, understanding and relaying information from one audience to another, and back again. This requires a number of interpersonal skills, not least being the ability to keep calm under pressure.

When it comes to conferences and large gatherings, there are three types of professional interpreters:


  • Simultaneous: The interpreter is in a sound proofed booth with a direct view of the conference room, listening to the speaker through earphones and simultaneously transmitting the message in another language through a microphone to listeners in the room.
  • Consecutive: The interpreter is seated at the conference table. They listen to a speech, take notes, and then relay the meaning of the speaker’s message in another language.
  • Whispered: The interpreter is seated in the meeting room and whispers in another language to a maximum of two delegates, relaying what is being said by the speaker.

Are you working with a professional interpreter in the near future? To learn how you can get the most out of your time with them, click here.

While still in the realm of language, a translator’s skills are slightly different. A good translator needs to be able to write fluently and express themselves well in their target language. For the most part, they work in one direction, taking information from a source text and translating it into their native language for a new audience, using dictionaries and research materials with cultural references to relay the correct tone and intended meaning.

It is not enough for an interpreter or a translator to simply ‘convert’ words from one language into another. To be truly proficient in their task, they need to have an understanding of the speaker’s culture as well as the subject matters so that they can translate meaning as well as fact. This type of work is a matter of understanding the thoughts expressed in one language and then explaining them using the references and cultural nuances of another language. This requires skill and practice.

As experts in our field, we have access to interpreters for over 30 language combinations. We can also refer you to reputable and trustworthy translators should you require their services.

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