Interpreters VS. Translators: Key Differences You’d Know

A lot of people use the terms “interpreter” and “translator” interchangeably, but that is not right.

So what are the differences of Interpreter vs translator?

Simply by the definition, Translators deal with written texts, and interpreters handle the oral transfer of spoken words from one language to another.

But how does this work? And how can you tell the detailed differences between a translator and an interpreter?

Let’s take a look at what makes each profession unique.

What Is the Difference Between Interpreters & Translators?

interpreter vs translator

Interpreters and translators are both responsible for converting one language into another. But what kind of professional do I need when you need to communicate with someone who speaks a different language?

Translator or interpreter? Let’s figure out how they perform different functions.

  • Format: In brief, interpreters convert one spoken language into another, while translators work with written words.
  • Delivery: Interpreters usually do their job on the spot and request real-time response because interpreting services happen in the moment. On the other hand, translators have more time to think, research, and correct their translations. Professional translators also have access to computer-aid tools like translation memory (MT), machine translation post-editing, which help them polish their work quickly and accurately—avoiding embarrassing errors!
  • Language processing: Interpreters should present tone, voice quality and any saying of the speaker, while translators more focus on text itself.

In addition to verbal interpreting, there is also Sign Language Interpreting (SLI) which bridges the gap between deaf people who use sign language and those who do not.

The world is getting smaller every day—so having professionals like interpreters and translators around is a must-have for any globally-minded business!

How Do Professional Translators Operate?

You might be surprised to learn that professional translators operate in a specific manner. It is not as easy as translating word for word, but rather a process that requires research and understanding of the source language, followed by conveying a natural flow of the target language.

To better understand how professional translators work, let’s look at their process:

  • Research: A translation job usually starts with a translator carrying out research on the source material and gathering background information to better understand the context of their task;
  • Translating: After they have enough context, they begin translating the text, usually keeping a record of project-specific terms and phrases to maintain consistency across documents;
  • Proofreading & Editing: A translator may also perform proofreading and/or editing tasks in order to ensure the accuracy and quality of translations;
  • Revising & Finalizing: The final step involves revising any errors or discrepancies before sending back the translated document to the client for approval.

Through this process, professional translators transform the source material into accurate translations without losing its original meaning or intent in the process.

Common Tools Used by Qualified Translators

When it comes to qualified translators, certain tools can make their job easier. However, just like any other profession, it takes experience, skill, and the right gear in order to produce quality work every single time.

These are just a few of the tools language experts usually use:

  • SDL Trados Studio: Popular CAT (collaborative computer-assisted translation) tool with a powerful translation memory technology, cloud-based terminology management, and GroupShare feature for real-time access and updates.
  • Linguee: Combination of a dictionary and search engine, allowing translators to search for meanings and translations of words, phrases, and sentences;
  • Microsoft Language Portal: Translations of key Microsoft terms in up to 100 different languages;
  • Magic Search: Online tool for quick terminology search in different language pairs;
  • Memsource: AI Cloud service for identifying content that can be translated automatically before a translator works on a document.

What Does an Interpreter Do?

difference between translator and interpreter

The definition of an interpreter is “a person whose job is to translate what somebody is saying into another language.”

So, an interpreter is someone who specializes in oral or sign language communication. Here are the main things to know about them:

  • Interpreters listen to one language and translate it into another: They are experts in quickly understanding messages and accurately conveying them in another language, either verbally or through signing.
  • Interpreters work in specific situations: Interpreting is usually performed during business meetings, medical appointments, legal depositions, contract negotiations, foreign delegation visits, etc. Sometimes interpreters facilitate meetings or other occasions of mainly linguistic exchange between two or more parties in the same language but with different dialects or cultural backgrounds.
  • Interpreters must remain neutral during conversations: they mustn’t express personal opinions or preferences when they are interpreting. This is critical because it ensures that accurate translations are given without any bias.
  • An interpreter has to be trained in both the source and the target language: This requires not only a strong command of grammar and vocabulary but also an understanding of the nuances and idiomatic expressions that are unique to each language.
  • Interpreters must have extensive knowledge of the local culture: In addition to language proficiency, interpreters must also have a deep knowledge of customs, traditions, and social norms that may impact how a message is received and understood.

Overall, becoming an interpreter requires a combination of linguistic and cultural competence, as well as a commitment to ongoing learning and development.

Tips for Setting Up Smooth Communication With Interpreters

Interpreters help bridge the language barrier between two different speakers by translating verbally in real time. This allows both sides to understand each other without any roadblocks. Setting up successful communication with an interpreter is essential to fostering successful conversations.

Here are some suggestions for doing so:

  • Make sure your interpreter is qualified and comfortable with the language pair;
  • Establish guidelines for the interpretation session in advance, such as languages used, background information for context, and the expected outcome of the conversation;
  • Create a comfortable environment for both sides during the session and ensure no extra stressors are present at hand;
  • Respect your interpreter and their expertise by allowing them time to think, speak, and research unfamiliar words or phrases when necessary;
  • Give clear instructions to your interpreter, so that they can interpret accurately and effectively.

By following these simple steps, you can create a smooth communication platform between disparate languages with the help of an interpreter—ensuring successful conversations each time!

Do You Need a Language Interpreter or Translator?

difference between interpreter and translator

You may be wondering if it’s really worth it to hire someone when you can use an app to translate a few words or sentences. Now that you are familiar with the differences between a translator and an interpreter, you should know that there are some substantial reasons to use their services.

Accuracy & Integrity

Interpreters and translators always provide the highest level of accuracy and integrity when doing their job. They are knowledgeable in both languages, technical terminology, cultural nuances, and so forth. They understand the subtleties of the language being used, in order to accurately translate nuanced messages and emotions between both parties involved.

Time-Saving & Cost Efficiency

Hiring a professional interpreter or translator can be very cost-efficient and time-saving in the long run. A translation app may not always be reliable, as it can only translate simple words or sentences that don’t take into account local customs, industry terminology, or cultural nuances. 

Whereas, with a professional interpreter or translator on board, you can be sure that these nuances will be accounted for and your message will be conveyed clearly.

Where to Find Interpreters & Translators?

The global economy has created a need for more interpreters and translators than ever. But where can you find them? Well, the good news is there are plenty of resources available for finding qualified interpreters and translators. They include:

1. Professional Associations

Professional associations like the American Translators Association, the International Federation of Translators, and the International Medical Interpreters Association compile databases of experts in their fields. You can search for individual professionals who have earned certifications or post open positions on these sites.

2. Translation Agency

Another way to find interpreters and translators is through an agency that specializes exclusively in language services.

Through their expertise, our language experts at can inspire positive change and promote global collaboration. With a commitment to precision, these specialists are able to provide accurate translations, interpretations, and language instruction to individuals and organizations.

Professional Translation Services

Get accurate and consistent translation of your text content into 150+ languages at as low as $0.07 per source word. No subject matter is ever too intricate for our experienced linguists with area-specific expertise.

3. Freelancer Marketplace

There are tons of online platforms where you can find translators and interpreters, such as Upwork, PPH. But keep in mind that these marketplaces won’t guarantee the quality of language services. It’s not an easy job to find a right translator for your project, making it time-consuming or even cost-losing.

Can You Tell Apart from Translator VS. Interpreter Now?

Interpreter vs translator? Understanding their roles is the key! Consider the specific language needs of the situation, as some professionals specialize in certain languages or fields.

Whether you need to translate important business documents or require an interpreter for a legal proceeding, working with a qualified expert can help!

Wordspath can help

Wordspath provides highly reliable human translation and state-of-the-art machine translation services for content related to diverse subject matters with accuracy and consistency. 

We take pride in our quality-driven workflow that combines the excellent work of our linguists, desktop publishers, project managers, customer service, and technical team. Their endless support allows Wordspath to provide first-rate language solutions in 150+ languages for thousands of customers who need to connect with the world.

Wordspath also offers machine translation post-editing services translating the content with our proprietary MT engine and having our in-house/contracted linguists review,  edit, polish, and proofread the results.

Meanwhile, we are highly experienced in delivering tailor-made localization-related solutions such as desktop publishing, transcription, subtitling, and voiceover. Our ability to quickly handle a wide range of content types between nearly all language combinations sets us apart from our competitors. Should you need to consult on your best-fit language solution, you can contact us through live chat or email to Or simply request a free quote.

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