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Translation vs. Interpretation: Which Is the Best Service this 2024?

Christopher Nguyen
Christopher Nguyen
Posted in Zoom Sep 8 · 8 Sep, 2022
Translation vs. Interpretation: Which Is the Best Service this 2024?

Many people have always been confused about the difference between translation vs. interpretation. This article explores which of the two is suitable for your needs.

The Internet has bridged the communication gap between nations, and businesses are taking advantage of this. Companies are taking all opportunities to expand their reach to cities and towns all over the world. According to Verified Market Research, the market size of translation services was valued at $39.37 billion in 2020. With a CAGR of 2.07%, it is expected to reach $46.22 billion by 2028.

While the benefits are plenty, challenges are still present. After all, once a company ventures to a different country, it can be difficult to communicate with the community. Of course, breaking the barriers of language is one of the first things you should do to be competitive in the international market.

However, once you look for service providers who can help you with communicating with the locals, you might be presented with two options—translation vs. interpretation. Which do you need? How do you differentiate the two linguistic specialties?

Translation vs. Interpretation: How Do You Define the Two?

People often confuse translation with interpretation. So, it’s important that we understand the difference between the two. If you want to compare or contrast translation vs. interpretation, you need to look at some key elements.

Generally, the difference between the two is how the language is processed. In interpretation, the language is handled in real-time. On the other hand, translation focuses more on written content. Below, we’ll dive deeper into these two concepts.


Those who work in translation successfully decipher a written content’s meaning and process a source language to another language. Most of the time, translators use computer-assisted tools when working, and that is one of the things that makes it different from interpretation.

Sometimes, translators use software that enables them to fill missing gaps quickly. Through termbase and translation memory technology, they can conveniently go through text while referring to parallel content to ensure the accuracy of the translation. Most of the time, people working in this field focus on written materials like websites and print ads.


Interpretation, on the other hand, involves paraphrasing what a speaker is saying. They repeat the message using a different language while trying to retain its core meaning. Usually, interpreters work in live conversations like conferences, meetings, TV shows, and more. Since interpretation is done in real-time, people working in this field have excellent communication skills. Moreover, they can work under pressure.

Translation vs. Interpretation Services: What Are the Main Differences?

1. Format

Translation services are based on written texts while interpretation deals with spoken language in real-time.

2. Delivery

As we’ve mentioned, interpretation happens on the spot. It can take place over the phone, in person, or even via a video conference. On the other hand, translation can be done long after the source text is generated. As such, translators usually have enough time to process the materials. They can even use technologies and other content references to produce accurate and quality results.

3. Accuracy

Because of the urgency of the language processing, interpretation does not achieve the same level of accuracy as translation does. Of course, interpreters try to perfect the translation. However, in live settings, this can be difficult to achieve. Sometimes, they have to leave out some words from the original language to get to the context as quickly as possible.

4. Direction

When you’re comparing translation vs. interpretation, you need to look at how the language is processed. For instance, interpreters are required to instantaneously translate from both directions of languages. This means that they are fluent in the source and target languages. Meanwhile, translators usually focus on their mother tongue. They learn a second language and specialize in translating that to their own language.

5. Intangibles

Both translators and interpreters struggle with using idioms, metaphors, and analogies that resonate with the target audience. What’s more, interpreters are responsible for capturing the unique qualities of a spoken word, including its inflections, tone, and voice quality. They need to convey these verbal cues accurately to the audience.

Translation vs. Interpretation Services: What Are the Main Similarities?

translation vs. interpretation

1. Knowledge and Training

Translators and interpreters must have knowledge and training on the topic they are processing. Let’s say they’re handling legal documents or proceedings. In this case, they should know the judicial systems of the languages they’re working with.

2. Linguistic Skills

Both interpreters and translators must have excellent command of the languages they’re handling. It’s not enough that they can hold informal conversations in various languages. Instead, they must also be proficient in word plays or technical expressions.

3. Professionalism

If you want to become a translator or an interpreter, you need to be ready to meet deadlines and appointments. Both roles require the highest level of professionalism because of the high-pressure environment they work in. Moreover, both jobs require you to be capable of converting a message to a different language without losing its original meaning.

As professionals, translators and interpreters need to be dedicated enough to learn about the characteristics and culture of the speakers. So, both of them should be adept at transcreation or localization.

What Are the Different Translation Types?

translation vs. interpretation

When you’re comparing translation vs. interpretation, you also need to learn about where they apply. So, here are the different types of content that require translation services:

  • Legal translation – This requires knowledge of legal jargon and terminology. The translated text should be clear, objective, and exact. The documents involved here include contracts, employment files, legislations, business agreements, mergers and acquisitions, and more.
  • Industrial/technical translation – The translated text should have the exact meaning as the original message. The documents involved here include technical standards, patents, manuals, guides, and more.
  • Medical translation – This requires accuracy and clarity. What’s more, the translator must ensure that the text complies with the legislative rules in the target language. This includes clinical trials, medical abstracts, pharmaceutical descriptions, and medical equipment manuals.
  • Financial translation – Because numbers are important in this field, the translated text should be accurate. Financial translators usually process documents like annual reports, audits, bank records, and financial statements.
  • Software/video game translation – The technical term for translation in this field is “localization”. The translator is responsible for adapting the text to the native conventions of the target language. What’s more, they are confined to pre-determined maximum text lengths. Usually, they process software user guides, mobile apps, websites, and technical documentation.
  • Marketing translation – Marketing translators are creative enough to translate the text into a message that resonates with the target audience. They usually process brochures, presentations, newsletters, slogans, and even social media posts.
  • Certified translation – Translators in this field usually work with state and public administration communications. They process criminal records, marriage certificates, birth certificates, diplomas, and court rulings, among others.
  • Literary translation – This process involves adapting humor, cultural nuances, emotions, feelings, and an author’s unique writing style to the target language. This involves processing novels, poems, stories, and plays.

What Are the Different Interpretation Types?

translation vs. interpretation

There are two primary types of interpretation:

  • Live interpretation – Also known as simultaneous interpretation, this process involves translating a spoken text from one language to another almost without delay. Usually, you’ll need specialized equipment to fulfill this. What’s more, live interpretation is used in state visits, conferences, training sessions, and public lectures.
  • Gradual interpretation – Also referred to as consecutive interpretation, this process involves translating for press conferences, seminars, lectures, audits, presentations, and business meetings.

Translation vs. Interpretation: Which Service Do You Need?

If you still don’t know whether you need translation or interpretation services, contact GoTranscript’s team. We are ready to give you expert advice on what service is suitable for your needs. Our translation services are 100% human-generated and trusted across the globe.