Transcription Vs Translation: What’s the Difference in Language?


When you haven’t collaborated with a language service company, it’s perfectly normal not knowing the difference between transcription and translation. As both terms start with the same prefix “trans” and end with the identical suffix “tion”, they are sometimes misused interchangeably. This blog post will explain all the ins and outs of transcription vs translation

Transcription Vs Translation - by Definition

If you just googled the difference between transcription and translation, you’ve probably seen intricate terms like RNA, DNA, and mRNA reappear in the search results. Right? Don’t worry. We will not dive into the riddling knowledge of biology today. Instead, we will focus on transcription vs translation in language

But have you ever wondered how this happened? It is because transcription and translation are both polysemes with disambiguation. For example, translation is a technical term used by at least nine disciplines and fields, including language studies, biology, broadcast, physics, sociology, mathematics, computing, literature, and religion. That’s quite a list!

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What is Transcription in Language?

According to the Collins Dictionary, transcription refers to the written text of a conversation or speech or the process of transcribing it. When transcribing an audio file, it’s critical to ensure the exact transcript of everything said is produced. 

Transcription is commonly used in a wide range of contexts. In fact, you may have come across or conducted the act of transcribing in one way or another. For example, if you’ve seen/participated in a courtroom hearing or trial before, you must have noticed the existence of a court reporter who was absorbed in capturing the live testimony from attorneys, defendants, witnesses, and other participants on a stenographic machine without a break. The act of making such a written record is called transcription. 

Remember the good old days when you attended a lecture by your favorite professor at university? You must have taken notes of the professor’s speech that you thought were important. Yes, the process of creating those notes is transcription. And the written text is called a transcript.

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What is Translation in Language?

Similar to transcription, the output of translation is also a written record.

According to the Collins Dictionary, translation in language refers to the rendering of a piece of writing or speech from one language into another. However, if it is a speech that requires translation, one needs to have the audio transcribed into written text before converting the content to another language. So for audio translation, it’s more of a transcription + translation process. 

Transcription vs Translation - By similarities

Despite the different definitions, transcription and translation in language do have a lot in common and are interrelated with each other. For instance, in order to translate a speech in an audio or video, one needs to finish the transcription work and then render the source language to the desired language.  

Besides, both transcription and translation deliver output in the written documents. They both demand a high level of accuracy, requiring retaining the source content’s intent and maintaining the integrity of the initial message. 

Transcription and translation also have an immense monetary value when using either/both of them right to facilitate effective communication. You can contact our linguistic experts to know more about how we can help your business with both services.

What is the difference between transcription and translation?

The biggest difference between translation and transcription is that the former involves the conversion between two languages, and the latter only works with the source language. Mostly, translation is a more complex and challenging process than transcription because it involves a lot of creative and critical thinking in the final work. 

With transcription, the transcriptionist is required to listen to an audio and record every word that is said in the transcript. Yet in translation, when the counterpart of a particular word, phrase, or concept doesn’t exist in the target culture, a translator must avoid literal translation and rewrite the message using similar terms in the target language to ensure contextual accuracy. 

Additionally, the skillset for translation and transcription work also diverges. While a transcriptionist can get his job well done knowing only one language, it takes proficiency in at least two languages to become an eligible translator.

Translation versus transcription - When to Use

Translation and transcription have different contexts of use. However, they both serve the purpose of enabling easier communication and understanding. 

Let’s compare and contrast the use cases of transcription and translation. 

Transcription vs Translation Comparison Chart – Use Cases

Transcription vs Translation – Skills Required

Transcriptionists and translators are both professionals with years of practice and expertise in their own fields. Being able to type super fast doesn’t always make you a qualified transcriptionist. Likewise, being a bilingual or multilingual speaker doesn’t qualify you as an eligible translator either. It takes lots of training and learning to get to where the experienced transcriptionists and translators are.  

Qualities of a Good Transcriptionist

  • Strong listening skills
  • Accurate and fast typing skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Proficiency in at least one language

  • Mastery of MS Word or other similar applications

  • Good grammar knowledge

  • Editing & proofreading skills

  • A good multitasker

  • Efficient task completion skills

  • Good time management

Essential Translator Skills

  • Comprehensive and advanced language knowledge

  • In-depth culture-specific knowledge

  • Expert writing skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Creative and critical thinking

  • Excellent research skills

  • Mastery of MS Word or other word processing application

  • An expert CAT tools user

  • Good time management 

  • Passion for language


In one sentence, both translation and transcription are services provided by language service companies with different functions and practices. After reading this post, we hope you can distinguish between transcription and translation by yourself. And if you’re searching for such professionals to finish your transcription/translation work, look no further than Wordspath! 

As a professional language service provider with over two decades of experience, we have an extensive network of linguistic talents worldwide who excel in their own specialties. They can work closely with you to reach your goals per your needs. Contact our sales representative for more information or explore our transcription or translation services.

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