Difference Between Translation and Interpretation

From source to target, both translation and interpretation facilitate communication across languages. The translation is the process of converting the meaning of a written word from one language to another. The meaning of a spoken word is translated from one language to another through the process of interpretation. Translation and interpretation processes include high professionalism requirements and in-depth knowledge of the languages that one has to convert for the understanding of others.

Translation vs Interpretation

The main difference between translation and interpretation is in the terms of medium and skill set used in each service. Interpreters verbally translate spoken language, whereas translators translate the written word. Both demand a thorough cultural and language awareness, in-depth topic knowledge, and the capacity to communicate effectively.


The process of transforming the written word from one language into another in a culturally and linguistically acceptable manner so that it may be understood by its target audience is known as language translation. The translation process requires a highly optimized and fault-free piece of work in the required language.

The process of transforming meaning between two languages in real-time, verbally or graphically, as in the case of sign language, is known as interpretation. The majority of interpreters work in tandem with the speakers or after the speaker has finished speaking. They are unable to express their opinions while working and must instead concentrate on correctly presenting the message and tone.

Comparison Table Between Translation and Interpretation

Parameters of ComparisonTranslationInterpretation
FormatText-based.Spoken language.
Delivery typeOn the spot.Can take place after the original text has been generated.  
PeriodAllows for plenty of time.Do not provide time.
AccuracyTakes place in one direction.The translation is required in both directions.
RequirementsNo such spoken form of information is required.Important to acquire the intonation, idioms, voice modulation, and other distinguishing characteristics of the spoken word.

What is Translation?

The process of rewriting text from one language into another to keep the original content and communication intact is known as translation. Context, the grammatical rules of the two languages, their writing norms, and their idioms must all be considered while translating. A widespread fallacy is that any two languages have a simple word-for-word relationship and that translation is a simple mechanical procedure.

A word-for-word translation ignores context, grammar, customs, and idioms. There are several translation methods, each with its shape and function. When a technical product is sold in another nation, a technical translation of that particular product is essential. The technical documentation is required to be translated into the language of the relevant nation in which the product is being sold.

Legal translation is the most difficult translation, it includes marriage and birth certificate translations, as well as contracts, memorandums, agreements, wills, and such documents. A competent translator must comprehend the document’s many underlying texts as well as those laws of the two nations or areas for which the papers are required.

A strong command of the target and source languages is required for book translation. Only someone who understands the significance of the book’s original tone can accurately interpret it. The enormous crowd of the entire planet may be captured with the help of book translation.

A medical translation includes a wide range of topics in the medical profession, including pharmaceutical product translations, translations of critical product information for medical equipment and research results as well as patient clinical information and notes. The task of translating patent documents into another language is known as patent translation.

Patent translation most likely are prepared by legal professionals. The patent translation should be such that it may be understood by someone who has never heard of the invention before. A tiny blunder can make or destroy a contract, thus translation should be handled with extreme caution.

What is Interpretation?

Interpretation is a service that is provided in real-time. It is provided live, without the use of scripts, dictionaries, or other reference materials, in harmony with or immediately after the original speech. Professional interpreters must transpose the source language into context, keeping the original meaning intact while rephrasing idioms, colloquialisms, and other culturally unique allusions in a way that the target audience can comprehend.

Experience, a good memory, and fast reactions are an interpreter‘s sole assets. The underlying ‘rule’ of language interpretation is the preservation and registration of the meaning of the original language material, which encompasses sign, spoken, and written discourses. There are various types of interpretation.

In simultaneous interpretation, the interpreter wears headphones and listens to the spoken content while speaking the interpreted words into a microphone. The interpreter begins their interpretation process as soon as they comprehend the overall meaning of the sentence. Award presentations and beauty pageants are great examples of simultaneous interpretation.

Surprisingly, the Nuremberg Trials were the first to employ simultaneous interpretation utilizing technological devices. In consecutive interpretation, the speaker talks for a short period before pausing for about five minutes. Within the halted period, the interpreter makes notes and subsequently transfers the message.

Note-taking is an important skill in consecutive interpretation. Liaison interpretation relies on an interpreter who continuously translates between the source and target languages while the discussion is in progress. This sort of interpretation is best for small, casual gatherings.

Main Differences Between Translation and Interpretation

  1. While interpretation deals with spoken language in instant time, translation includes text-based services.
  2. Interpretation is an on-the-spot service.  The meeting might take place in person, over the telephone, or by video call. On the other hand, translation can take place after the original text has been generated.
  3. In general, the translation process allows for plenty of time to use technology and references resources to manufacture accurate and high-quality translations whereas on the other hand interpretation process is an instant event that does not provide time for factors like accuracy and quality.
  4. Because interpretation is a process in which translation is required in both directions instantly without the use of reference sources, the interpreter must be proficient in both the source and destination languages. The translation process usually only happens in one direction.
  5. In Interpretation, it is important to acquire the intonation, idioms, voice modulation, and other distinguishing characteristics of the spoken word, and then communicate these verbal clues to the client whereas in translation no such criteria are required to be fulfilled.


Bottom line is that both translation and interpretation includes converting the information or message from one source language into the other language but the former process requires more precision and fluency as it is mostly presented in the written form whereas the latter process is an on the spot event which reduces the need for proper precision.

Despite this, the translation is placed on top as it has the advantage over time. While translating the professionals use a lot of tools, resources, and other aids to make the best report whereas while interpreting the professionals are demanded to keep in mind the key facts of the particular linguistic aspect which they are translating.


  1. http://www.berkeleymonastery.org/uploads/6/3/3/1/6331706/on_translation.pdf
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/annual-review-of-applied-linguistics/article/abs/translation-and-interpretation/0854326094B265104925C60E9342EE6D
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