Feb 15, 2018 3

The Differences Between an Interpreter and a Translator

Consider yourself working in another language and find yourself lost. You don’t have the resources you need, or unable to locate them. Or, say that you have a video conference set up with someone in another country. You don't speak their language well, and the person you're going to be speaking with likewise doesn't speak American English well. Are you going to need a translator? An interpreter? Do you require the services of both?

Knowing the difference between translation and interpretation can save your time and money by finding the professional linguistic assistance you or your company needs. Don't make the mistake of hiring one when you need the other. You'd be surprised at both the similarities and differences of interpreters in Minnesota.

How Are They Similar

There are several important similarities between interpreters and translators.

  • Both interpreters and translators are professionally qualified linguists. This requires specific education that people who are merely bilingual or multilingual do not have.
  • Both work from their primary or native language and translate into the target language.

Sometimes, people who work as translators also work as interpreters, but this is not always the case.


The differences between interpreters and translators are often the determining factor depending on the type of professional service you need. Below is a chart, noting these differences.

        Translator                                                       Interpreter

Translates written word                          Interprets the spoken word                    Charge per hour or per day                     Charge per word or per page Interprets between two spoken              Interprets source language into their languages to facilitate communication.    mother tongue. This is a one-way Translates on the spot either while one party is speaking or immediately after. May use a notepad or headphones.

Has time to consult dictionaries and other sources in order to translate accurately.

The Importance of Linguistic Professionals

Both translators and interpreters are important for today’s global world. Not everything can be handled by Google Translate. With translators and interpreters, you sort out the nuances that computer translations miss. So much of a language is idiom, colloquialism, and even regional dialect. Without that fluency and cultural experience, you might even understand them but it cannot connect with the deeper, richer meaning of the exchange.

When choosing a company to provide translation and interpretation services, ask others in your industry who they have used and been satisfied with in the past. Investigate on your own and find not the best priced, but the most linguistically diverse and proficient service. Pick an experienced and credential firm to handle the services you need.