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  • Writer's pictureBe Moore Interpreting

Translation vs Interpretation: Learning the Key Differences

Updated: Apr 25, 2023



Translation and interpretation are two of the most fascinating aspects of language. They both play an important role in helping people communicate and connect across cultures, but they have fundamental differences. For example, translation involves converting written text from one language into another, while interpretation involves converting spoken language in real time. If you're new to the world of language, this might sound a little confusing but don't worry, we got you!


Let's start with translation. Imagine you're reading a Spanish novel and want to read it in English. Well, that's where translation comes in. A translator will take the written Spanish text and convert it into English text. The goal of translation is to accurately convey the original message and meaning of the text into another language. This process often takes time and attention to detail because translators must ensure that the written text is accurate and culturally appropriate.


Now, let's talk about interpretation. Interpretation is a live process where the interpreter must convert spoken or sign language in real time. For example, imagine you're at a business meeting, and one of your colleagues only speaks Spanish. An interpreter would be there to instantly convert what the colleague is saying into English so everyone at the meeting can understand. And similarly to translation, the goal of interpretation is to accurately convey the spoken message in real-time, which requires quick thinking and excellent language skills.


Both translation and interpretation require a high level of skill and knowledge, but their workflow is quite different. Since translators work primarily with written text and are responsible for converting written content, they have the luxury of carefully considering the meaning and context of each word, sentence, and paragraph and making necessary adjustments to ensure the translated content is accurately and culturally appropriate.


On the other hand, since interpreters work primarily with interpreting in real-time, they must possess excellent listening and comprehension skills and the ability to quickly and accurately convert spoken words from one language to another. In addition, interpreters often work in high-pressure situations, such as medical appointments or legal proceedings, and must be able to remain calm and professional to accurately convey the speaker's intended meaning.


So, why is it important to understand the difference between translation and interpretation? Simply put, it helps bridge cultures allowing people to communicate better and deeply connect. And if you need a language service or want to help your community overcome a language barrier, knowing what type of support the individual or group might need is essential. So, whether you're reading a novel in another language or attending a business meeting, translation and interpretation play a crucial role in breaking down language barriers and promoting understanding while providing accessibility. It’s also important to note that an interpreter doesn’t necessarily make you a translator simply because the translated spoken language may differ from how the culture actually writes it– which iterates the importance of understanding the differences, especially the nuances.



Being an interpreter doesn't make someone a translator, being a translator doesn't make someone an interpreter.



We'll end with this-- translation and interpretation are two important aspects of language that help people communicate and connect across cultures. While they both play important roles, they are different processes. Translation involves converting written text into another language, while interpretation involves converting spoken language in real-time. Both require a high level of skill and knowledge, which are important for breaking down language barriers and promoting understanding.



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