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Translator Vs Interpreter (6 Key Differences)

Posted 06 December 2022

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What are the differences between a translator and an interpreter?

It’s easy to confuse these two linguistic disciplines.

To succeed on a global scale, every business needs to have a deep understanding of the cultural differences between countries. Failing to do so can have a detrimental impact on your ability to move into new markets and unlock new revenue.

Many businesses utilise translation and localisation services to break into new markets. In contrast, some choose to leverage interpretation services.

The question is, which do you need?

There are six key areas of difference:

  1. Format
  2. Payment
  3. Delivery
  4. Approach
  5. Fluency
  6. Intangibles

Let’s break each of these down in more detail.

Translator Vs Interpreter (5 Key Differences)

1 – Format

While translators handle written words, interpreters focus on the spoken word.

This is the most obvious difference between the two disciplines, but it’s also the most important.

The service that you need will be dictated by the format required.


2 – Payment

An interpreter is typically paid by the hour or has a set day rate. A translator, on the other hand, is usually paid per word or per project.

This difference in payment structures is a result of the different formats that each discipline works in.

An interpreter’s work is much more time-sensitive than a translator’s, which is why they are typically paid by the hour.

If an interpreter is needed for an all-day event, they will usually have a set day rate.


3 – Delivery

Interpreters can deliver immediately, either digitally or in person. Translations can take place long after the source material is produced.

Translators can work within a fixed timeframe to provide deliverables and generate translations of the source material.

In some cases, translators will utilise technology to expedite the translation process and deliver translations faster.


4 – Approach

Interpreters are trained to deliver on the go – without access to reference materials or dictionaries. They must deliver in real-time without any hesitation.

Translators can leverage research to accurately render the source text into another language.

They have the time to carefully consider each word and phrase to ensure that it is correctly translated into the target language.


5 – Fluency

Both translators and interpreters need to be fluent in both the source and target languages.

However, interpreters also need to have a high level of cultural fluency. This is because they need to be able to understand not only the words being spoken but also the context in which they are being used.


6 – Intangibles

Analogies and metaphors are often used when speaking, and these can be lost in translation.

It’s the interpreter’s job to find an equivalent way of expressing the meaning in the target language.

In contrast, a translator can take their time to find the perfect way to express the source material in the target language.

Interpreter Vs Translator (4 Key Similarities)

  • Translators and interpreters are both linguists.
  • Translators and interpreters work with a source language and a target language.
  • Translators and interpreters both require technical qualifications.
  • Translators and interpreters must convey the source language in the target language.

5 Different Types of Interpreting

  • Simultaneous interpreters will listen to the speaker in one language and then translate this almost at the same time.
  • Consecutive interpreters will take structured notes in close proximity to the speaker; when the speaker pauses, they will then deliver the speech in the target language.
  • Liaison interpreters help people and organisations foster working relationships in business meetings and negotiations by working more on a conversational level, verbally translating short bursts of speech consecutively.
  • Whisper interpreters will sit next to the delegate and discretely “whisper” in the target language. This is a form of simultaneous interpreting also known as “chuchotage”.
  • Remote interpreters are utilised via phone or video call. For instance, the NHS uses telephone interpreting to assist with patient appointments – which can ensure seamless and on-demand communication between doctors and patients.

Translation & Localisation Services (How to Get Started)

With a team of expert linguists in your corner, you can confidently enter new global markets.

At ALM Translations, we provide exceptional translation and localisation services that will help you to expand your business internationally.


Request a free quote today.


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