Translators vs. Interpreters – what’s the difference?
translators vs. interpreters

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When a business is in need of language translations, what kind of language translation service do they actually need – translators or interpreters?

It might seem like a silly question to you, for one of two reasons:

1. Either you know the difference between the two or …
2. You never knew there was a difference.

The difference between translators and interpreters

At first glance, there is one glaringly obvious similarity between translators and interpreters – they both deal with language translations.

However, there are also many differences as well. For starters, translators work with the written word while interpreters specialize in oral communication. That significant difference sets forth a series of other subtleties that separate each job as its own specialization.

Both jobs deal with language, but are vastly different

For example, translators spend most of their time with documents and working intimately with a variety of texts, while interpreters will almost always work with real people, in real time. This means that while translators clearly need to be able to “work with people,” that need is far more important for an interpreter.

This also means that an interpreter does not get the luxury of double-checking unfamiliar terms in a dictionary, as their work happens in the moment.

The written word is different from spoken words

When we communicate through our voice, we use more than words to convey our message. We also use tone, inflection, and even voice volume – elements that an interpreter must be trained to notice and relay.

And while we try to speak with as much accuracy as possible, we tend to be far more precise and accurate in our written texts, than we do orally. Translation specialists aren’t in a profession to improve one’s source message – they must preserve the original message as much as possible, thus translators are often far more likely to conduct a higher level of accuracy for their work than what is possible for an interpreter.

The similarity between language translators and language interpreters

Language is the common theme uniting both translators and interpreters. Both of these professions requires a specialist to transmit information from one language to another. As such, translators and interpreters must know more than just the formal use of a language. These linguists must have an in-depth knowledge of the figurative and metaphorical facets of each and every word – as well as the overall message – to help international audiences understand what’s being said (or read).

Do you need a translator or an interpreter for your language needs?

Unless you need real-time interpretations among two or more people (during a presentation, meeting/conference, or in a courtroom), chances are you’ll need a professional language translators for your translation and localization needs. Website localization, document translations and the translation of marketing materials all require the use of a translator.

What about multimedia localization?

If you’re looking to localize multimedia (videos, audio recordings, subtitling, etc.), you may not be sure which language professional you need – a translator or an interpreter. That’s because multimedia localization is a highly specialized field that requires the oral communication of an interpreter, yet isn’t necessarily a real-time translation project. As such, while translators and interpreters might be able to provide you a somewhat accurate and professional looking final multimedia project, what you actually need is a multimedia localization expert, such as Lingosphere.

At Lingosphere, our language specialists tear down the barrier between translator and interpreter, and provide language translations for the modern age. Using both the accuracy and research that translators are known for, as well as the fluidity and natural-sounding approach to language that interpreters are known for, our team of localization specialists provide clients with final projects that are both accurate and natural sounding.

translators vs. interpreters

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