Differences between Interpreters and Translators

(Last Updated On: February 18, 2015)

Interpreters and Translators

At first glance, it may appear that translating and interpreting is the same thing. The reality is that translating and interpreting requires very different skill sets. The most apparent difference between interpreters and translators is that translators work strictly with written language while interpreters deal exclusively with spoken words.


A translator must possess strong writing skills in order to detect and properly translate all of the subtle nuances of the language being translated. Proper meanings of words and phrases, including innuendo, need to be precisely translated. One advantage that a translator has over an interpreter is that a translator can spend time looking up the meanings of words and researching unclear material so there is no pressure to perform an immediate translation.

Translators only translate into their native language. This practice ensures that cultural and linguistic distinctions are properly translated. Conversely, it is not a requirement for a translator to speak the language fluently being translated; however, it is of utmost importance that the translator possesses a strong command and understanding of the language so the final translation is true to the original material.


Working with spoken language is a far more complex task. An interpreter must listen to one language, and then accurately translate the spoken words to another language. The interpreter cannot research meanings and nuances and must rely solely on their own skills and available knowledge. Any linguistic problems must be solved quickly and correctly. Additionally, the interpreter is responsible for precisely conveying a speaker’s intentions and emotions. Being an interpreter is a demanding position that requires immense skill to translate spoken words as well as the ability to work with people.

There are two distinct ways that interpreters perform language translation. One is consecutive translation and the other is simultaneous translation. There are some great Language services companies offering high quality results with both interpreters and translators.

Consecutive Interpretation

Some of the settings where consecutive translation may occur include face-to-face meetings, during speeches and in courtrooms. This type of translation consists of translating limited amounts of speech at a time. For example, a speaker says a few sentences then pauses; the interpreter then translates the sentences. This process continues until all of the necessary speeches are translated. Strong memory skills are necessary for this type of interpreter.

Simultaneous Interpretation

This style of interpretation does not allow for a break in the speech for the interpretation. Interpretation is ongoing as the words are being spoken. Common settings for this type of interpretation are diplomatic summits like the EU or UN. Simultaneous interpreting necessitates that the interpreter quickly processes the language and provides an immediate translation. Interpreters must utilize the utmost in focus and discernment abilities in order to provide the most accurate translation.

These are the main diferences between interpreters and translators. IsoTranslations is able to provide both translation and interpreting to whoever needs their services.