Interpreter vs Translator: 9 Major Differences Between The Two Professions

Business, Global Communication Blog, Language

There are thousands of languages around the globe. 

If you want to communicate with anyone who doesn’t speak your language, you have probably considered getting assistance. That brings up an interesting question of interpreter vs translator. 

Which one do you need, and what are the differences between them? Let’s take a closer look at the critical differences between the two professions.

Interpreter vs Translator

These two professions share one thing in common. They help us communicate with people that don’t speak our native language. 

To be either, you have to have a firm grasp of at least two languages, but some professionals are capable of many languages. 

1. Interpreters Deal With Conversation

The main job of an interpreter is to speak another language. They must have fluency, to a native level, in at least two languages to be accurate in their interpretation. This means they must speak your language, such as English, and whatever language you are attempting to communicate in like a native speaker.

Translators can also translate a conversation. They are more concerned with recording everything said accurately and in the language that you speak. They aren’t there to facilitate normal conversation in real-time. 

2. Translators Deal With Written Word

A translator can transcribe something from one language to another for you. This is not something that interpreters specialize in. In this way, you can have technical manuals, official communications, or other media translated for you. 

To be a capable interpreter, you don’t need to know how to write another language well. Most do, but it isn’t something that is make or break in that profession. Instead, it is more important to be conversational. 

    3. Conversation

    Translators can and do work with spoken language. They can translate things like phone calls. Interpreters are used when fluent conversational language must be translated in a quick and efficient manner. World leaders use interpreters for just this thing. 

    A translator listens and then translates a document. Interpreters must translate from one language to another without pause. This requires a set of skills that aren’t vital to being a translator.

    4. Accurate Word Use

    A translator is asked to put something from one language to another, and then give it back to you. In order to do this, a translator needs to have a deep breadth of knowledge. Even one word being in the wrong place and at the wrong time can change the meaning of a sentence completely. 

    Interpreters are also concerned with accuracy, but for them, the meaning is the most important thing. Communicating in real-time is a completely different method than through written word. 

    5. Work Environment

    Interpreters work in busy surroundings like a conference room, military base, or diplomatic meetings. They have to travel often, and many are on-call. A single urgent phone call might send them out of the country that same night.

    Translators have less demanding requirements. If a translator is a freelancer, they might work from home. A translator might sometimes have to work long hours to complete a job.

    Do your research if you’re thinking of hiring a translator. Many of the qualifications for an interpreter and translator are the same. 

    6. Number of Languages

    In order to be a good interpreter, you only need to know two languages. For example, an interpreter could have Spanish as their native tongue, and their work is interpreting their language into English. 

    Translators often know more than two languages. Linguistics is a broad field. The practical applications are immense, and facilitating communication is essential. 

    To be a great translator, you should know at least a few languages, and if they are geographically close to each other, even better. 

    7. Culture and Context

    Written documents are easy to get the context from. They say what they mean and are often written in technical terms. This removes some of the impacts of culture and context from the communication, but not all. A great translator will use the context of communication in order to be more accurate. 

    To be an accurate interpreter, you need to have common knowledge of a culture. This is because while speaking in conversation, you need to know why and what they are saying. Every culture and language have sayings and metaphors that don’t translate word for word, or if they do, they don’t make much sense. 

    8. A Translator Must Be a Good Writer

    In order to do their job well, a translator has to be good at writing. This is because they need to be able to write with both accuracy and knowledge of grammar. 

    Interpreters aren’t required to be excellent writers as they primarily are concerned with oral translation. This is one key difference in the discussion of interpreter vs translator. 

    Translators also must have the cultural intelligence to understand differences in languages. Such as French Canadian and European French. Knowing the difference between the two allows a translator to be more accurate.

    9. Translations Take Time

    Most interpreters and translators have bachelor degrees because they must understand linguistics well. The ways they put linguistics to use are different, though.

    Translators need time to translate the written word. They must draw from their own knowledge and use research to help them translate a country’s cultural nuances with accuracy.

    Interpreters render verbal speech into a different language on the spot in real-time.

    Linguistic Solutions for You

    If you are in the market for translation services, the chances are good that you need translators that can handle it all. Instead of concerning yourself with interpreter vs translator, you want everything you need when you need it.  

    Whether you need document translation or real-time interpretation, we have you covered. DTS Language Services can help cover any language issue that you’re having. Expand your business and give it the global reach it needs to be successful. 

    Contact us, and we’ll provide linguistic services you can rely on. Don’t wait for another second, and don’t try to go it alone. Communication must be accurate and efficient to be effective.