Translators Vs. Interpreters

Translator vs. Interpreter: What’s the difference?

Language is a funny thing - it is written and read, and it is spoken and heard. Although we tend to learn all of these things at the same time, they are not interchangeable. Many people read dead languages like Latin or Sanskrit, but they rarely speak or hear those languages. There are various scripts, characters, and alphabets around the world that, to a non-speaker, seem to have no connection with the sounds or words they represent. While some people might be incredible actors or public speakers, they might not have the same flare when they put pen to paper. 

This is the essential difference between translators and interpreters.

Translators are masters of the written word.  They take written content from one language and translate the words, reshaping and reforming them to make sure the message comes across in the perfect way.  A translator can take his time, deleting or adding words and restructuring sentences, changing things as he goes until the content comes out the way it was intended. This extra time gives translators the opportunity to have a greater level of accuracy.

Interpreters don’t need to be as creative, but they need to have existing knowledge of the culture, so they don't offend anyone. They also must be exceptional public speakers—in two languages! Interpreters are the people who stand next to a speaker and presenter and translate what they are saying, vocally, into another language. They need to be able to understand and quickly reconstruct what they are hearing so that the audience can understand the presentation or speech. Interpreters also need to be able to capture the tones and inflections of the speaker. If the speaker is angry, or joyous, or telling a sad story, the interpreter needs to be able to relay those expressions to the audience.

But they’re both basically the same thing, right?

No! Just as your bilingual friend probably isn’t the best choice for your interpretation or translation needs, these professionals are not interchangeable. Imagine trying to paraphrase two parts of a conversation between two English speaking friends, as they are speaking it. Now put that scenario in a courtroom or hospital. Think you could do it? Now imagine having no writing experience and trying to rework a beautifully crafted webpage, making sure to get all of the marketing content across to the audience while also being creative and interesting.

Interpreters and translators are both experts in language; that much is true.  But they are also experts in their respective fields. Lionbridge is here to help you get it right.  Whatever your language needs are, Lionbridge onDemand is here to help, check out all we have to offer here.


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