Translation vs interpretation: what is the difference?

Posted August 24, 2020 by NaushadKhan

Most people do not understand the difference between translation and interpretation. Some tend to think that the two words refer to the same thing.

Most people do not understand the difference between translation and interpretation. Some tend to think that the two words refer to the same thing. However, there are some differences between translation and interpretation; hence it is very important to ensure you understand them and that you do not confuse the two. Keep reading to find out some of the major differences between translation and interpretation.


Generally, translation involves rendering text from an original or source language to a target language while preserving its meaning. On the other hand, interpretation is an oral form of translation and it allows for real-time translation that is usually either in unison or immediately after the original speech.


Interpretation usually involves spoken language and it is usually done in real-time while translation involves the use of text. A translator, therefore, is required to have extensive knowledge of grammar and styles of writing. They should also be in a position to play around with words in a way that the final text is easily understandable by the reader without losing any meaning. Therefore, it is a major advantage to a translator if they are translating the text into their mother tongue as they are not likely to make any mistakes when it comes to the accuracy and the meaning of the original text. Interpreters, on the other hand, are required to be fluent in both languages without any kind of hesitation; hence their proficiency in spoken language must be of the highest level


When it comes to accuracy, interpretation does not require the highest levels of accuracy. As much as interpreters aim for maximum accuracy, it is usually very difficult to achieve this in a live setting as some of the original text may be missed out in the process. Translators, on the other hand, aim for maximum translation as they usually have time on their hands to analyze every part of the text.


Interpretation is usually delivered on the spot and it mostly occurs either in person, through video, or even over the phone. When it comes to translation, this can be done hours, days, or even months after the original text is created. The major advantage of this is that the translators get enough time to utilize all available technology to ensure that the translation is as accurate as possible.

Working tools

Translators tend to have a slight advantage over interpreters since they have various tools at their disposal to work with whenever they are looking to translate from a source language to a target language. Some of these tools include Microsoft Office word and some other translation support tools. For the final translation to achieve maximum accuracy, translators must make use of translation memories, reference materials, and even dictionaries.

On the other hand, interpreters do not have such or similar tools that they can use to enhance or make their work easier and more accurate. They are, therefore, expected to study materials beforehand in case there are any.

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Last Updated August 24, 2020