Interpreter vs. Translator: What’s the Difference?

Interpreter vs. Translator: What’s the Difference?

Guest Blog Written By Emma Collins

Knowledge of several languages has huge benefits in society. Various industries need people who understand other languages to receive opportunities in other countries. With all the demands for language services, you’re probably thinking of becoming an interpreter or a translator. But what’s the difference between the two? And what qualifications do you need to become one?

Many people use interpretation and translation interchangeably, which is inaccurate. Many would contact translators when they actually need interpretation assistance. Although they are related, they both have important distinctions that people interested in hiring professional language services must recognize. Read further to learn more about the difference between an interpreter and a translator:

Key Differences Between an Interpreter and a Translator

  • While both manage several languages, the main difference between the two professions is that an interpreter deals with the spoken language while a translator deals with the written word. 
  • Although translators can be part of a global language company like Translingua, they can find work on their own and perform all the translation processes alone. Interpreters, however, often needed to work with other people. Some interpreters work side-by-side with their client while some with other interpreters if in a conference meeting. 
  • With that, translators work on their own time. They can travel and still do their job as long as they have an internet connection. Translators usually receive client requests through email and conduct their research process unaided. Interpreters, however, need to be physically present in the job. 
  • In terms of work, it is safe to say that interpreters have more burdens on their shoulders. Since they have to perform in real-time, they will need extreme focus, listening skills, linguistic knowledge to carefully convert the required language to a specific group of people. While with translators, they can freely edit their work, use reference materials, and tools to make their work simpler. 
  • Since interpreters need to focus on their clients solely, it will be hard for them to do other things. Meanwhile, translators can work, stop, do other things, and go back to their projects at their own pace. It will be much easier for translators to multitask compared to interpreters. 

The required skills for translators may differ from interpreters. Here are some of the needed qualifications for both professions:


  • Translators have a vast knowledge of the source language, including the culture of the place where it’s from.
  • Translators must have the expertise and be familiar with the different types of translations such as business document translations, medical translations, transcript translations, legal translations, technical translations, and more.  
  • Translators have to know how to effectively use reference materials such as books and dictionaries to alter words to the target language accurately. 
  • Good translators should hold outstanding writing skills since more of their work focuses on composition. 


  • Interpreters must be extremely skilled in the speaker’s language and the language of the person they intend to convey it without additional tools. 
  • Interpreters must possess exceptional listening abilities and intellectual capacity. They have to process, remember the speaker’s message, and immediately give the version of the words into the target language.
  • Interpreters should also be an excellent public speaker to relay the speaker’s message properly.   

Learning different languages can be fun and help you to explore more of other people’s cultures. Whether you want to be an interpreter or a translator, both professions can have advantages and disadvantages. But the most important part is for you to enjoy the challenge and the additional knowledge it can bring you. 


1 Response to "Interpreter vs. Translator: What’s the Difference?"

  1. Thank you for explaining how listeners must be capable of memorizing what they are told so that they can clearly explain what they heard in another language. My brother is interested in opening a health clinic next month, and he needs to find a professional that can help him understand patients that do not speak English so that he can determine where they have been wounded in emergency situations. Maybe he should find a professional that will be able to quickly interpret a patient’s situation.

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