Before hiring a language expert, you must ask whether you need translators or interpreters. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, the translator and interpreter have different jobs for various situations. Keep reading to discover the differences and similarities between what a translator and an interpreter do.

What is an interpreter?

Interpreters help people who speak different languages understand each other. This is important in various situations, like meetings, legal stuff, medical appointments, and important events between countries.

When interpreting, they pay attention to more than just words. They also look at the speaker’s tone, how they talk, gestures, facial expressions, and body language. This helps them understand and share the whole meaning in the other language.

To be effective at their jobs, the translator and interpreter need to be skilled in languages and understand different cultures. In big meetings, interpreters might use special tools like headphones and microphones. Depending on the situation, they might translate while people are talking or waiting for the speaker to finish.

Major types of interpreting

  • Consecutive Interpreting.
  • Escort/Travel Interpreting.
  • Simultaneous Interpreting.
  • Whisper Interpreting.
  • Phone Interpreting.

What is a translator?

A translator is someone skilled in languages who focuses on written communication. He changes written content in one language into another while keeping the original meaning. This can include books, documents, websites, marketing materials, and technical manuals in various languages.

Although the translator and interpreter may share similarities, translators have the advantage of time to research and choose the best words carefully. To help with efficiency and consistency, they often use CAT tools and dictionaries.

Unlike interpreters, translators usually work at a slower pace. This allows them to revise and perfect vital aspects of their translations before delivering the final product.

4 Key Differences Between translator and interpreter

translator job

There are some major differences between the roles of the translator and interpreter, which include: 

1- Format

The translator and interpreter both play roles in communication but handle different forms of language. While interpreters deal with spoken language, translating it instantly, translators work with written text. The key difference lies in their work medium:

Spoken for interpreters.

Written for translators.

2- Delivery

Interpreters handle events immediately, whether face-to-face, on the phone, or through video. Translation, however, can happen much later, long after the original text is made. This delay allows translators to use references to create precise and top-notch translations.

3- Accuracy

Interpreting is a bit less precise than translating. Interpreters strive for perfection, but it’s tough during live situations; some parts of the original speech might get missed in the translated language. Conversely, translators have more time to check and correct written text for accuracy.

4- Intangibles

The translator and interpreter often find it tricky to make metaphors, analogies, and idioms connect well with the people they’re communicating with. Besides, the interpreter has the added task of grasping tone, voice quality, and other unique parts of spoken language. Then, he must pass on these verbal cues to the audience accurately.

Example of interpreters versus translators 

A manufacturing company might hire translators to convert their product guides into various languages, such as German, Korean, and French. This helps customers from different places understand how to use the product. When people who speak those languages call the customer service center, interpreters help them talk about the products in their language.

Similarities between translator and interpreter

The translator and interpreter share common traits. They both handle a source language, which they start with. Additionally, they deal with a target language, the one they’re translating or interpreting into.

Their primary task is extracting a message from the source language and delivering it to the target audience in the target language. In essence, they bridge the gap between languages.

The translator and interpreter are linguists, emphasizing their expertise in language-related tasks. To excel in these roles, the translator and interpreter need certified translation qualifications, which validate their proficiency in navigating the complexities of language conversion.

The best language service for all business needs

If you’re looking for translators, interpreters, or both, it’s essential to find a language service provider with extensive experience in many language pairs. Alsun has built a vast network of professional translators and interpreters for over 15 years. 

We provide top-notch language services to businesses in the Middle East. Contact us now to discover how our translation and interpretation services can meet your needs and surpass your expectations.

Final thoughts

The translator and interpreter are language experts, but their jobs differ. Translators are excellent at written content, ensuring translations are just right. They’re super careful and precise. Conversely, interpreters handle live situations by talking and conveying the meaning on the spot. Even though they do different things, translators and interpreters are key links between cultures and languages. They help make global communication and understanding happen.