translation and interpretation

What is the Difference Between Translation and Interpreting?

(Last Updated On: October 8, 2019)

If you spend some time on the internet, there is a hundred percent chance that you have come across a post or tweet that is written in a foreign language. Sometimes you click the translation option but more often than not, you don’t. Because you know the result will be far away from the actual meaning of the post. It may bother you for a minute to not be able to understand something when it is right in front of you, but you don’t give it much thought because it wasn’t necessary for you to know the meaning of the post.

However, there will be instances in life when you will actually need to know the meaning of something that is written in a foreign language. It could be anything from policy of the company you want to work at or financial report from one of your overseas offices. It can also be a medical report from the time when you got hospitalized in a foreign land. Such moments are not the ones in which you can be okay with not knowing the meaning of a statement or paper. Even in personal conversations, it becomes impossible sometimes to talk freely due to the language barriers.

This is why people use translation frequently, and not its machine version, but the one where humans do all the work. But there are settings where the slow process of sending someone a document and then waiting for them to work on it is not suitable. In life, and especially in business, time is very important. Just a few hours’ delay can make people lose a deal or help them achieve their biggest milestone. The process of translation is not suitable in such scenarios where conversations have to be held and a decision has to be made within an hour.

But no one can ever claim that humans give up easily. We are always looking for ways to improve our lives. We have made hundreds of inventions to prove the fact that we will go to great lengths to make our lives easier and better than ever. From refrigerators to juicers and airplanes and cars, there is nothing that is not helping us with day to day tasks. It is understandable that the same humans that turned a simple wheel into an electric car kept working on translation and came up with better solutions for conversations.

translation and interpretation
translation and interpretation

The Art of Interpreting:

Interpretation is what people turn to when they can’t wait for a translation. When you are talking to someone and you need to know what they mean as soon as they say it, you don’t contact a translator, you get in touch with an interpreter instead. They are trained to think on the spot and provide you with solutions that no one else can. The way interpreters helped during the World Wars still remains underappreciated. In truth, there would have been a lot of confusions without their help and lives would have been lost for nothing. They helped the Allied forces in dealing with POW and made sure the latter were treated as best as they could during those tough times by conveying their needs to their captors.

Business meetings with foreign investors, consultations with overseas doctors, it has all become possible with the help of interpreting. People don’t have to turn to translation anymore for things that can be resolved with the help of interpreting, the same way they don’t need horses anymore to send messages to someone.

What is the Difference Between Translation and Interpreting?


The world has come a long way but there are still a few things that humans need help with. Every field has a few confusing terms that can create problems for people, especially when they are in need of a particular service but end up booking the other service. Anyone who deals with foreign languages should know the difference between translation and interpreting.

Many people think that the two terms mean the same thing but there are many differences between translation and interpreting. A lot of people use the term interchangeably so it is no wonder that people get confused. But the difference between the two should be cleared up so no one gets confused whenever they need the help of an interpreter or translator.

Translation is what you request by sending your documents, texts, or images to a qualified professional. They will take a day or more, depending on the word count of the document, to get back to you with the finished project. You cannot get help in real-time with this method. But interpreting is something that will help you in real-time. Every time you need someone to interpret the words of a person in real-time, you will have to get in touch with an interpreter. Nowadays the service is also available via phone so you can invite a professional to your meeting without compromising the privacy of everyone involved.

Both methods have advantages and are suitable for different situations. Interpreting is better for live conversations and quick help while translation is better for documents. The latter is also a more proper way of handling documents and is preferred by government offices and companies when accepting a paper in a foreign language. Knowing the difference will help you decide which option to go for the next time you encounter a language issue. Picking up the right professional for the task is the only way to get it done perfectly.