The average person might refer to interpreters and translators interchangeably. However, this is not the case. When your business is searching for professional language services, it’s essential to understand these distinct roles and the value they offer your organization.

Whether you’re working with an interpreter or a translator, both experts are proficient in the language(s) your business seeks to develop its messaging through various communication channels. While there’s plenty of overlap in the function and value of both services, most language experts specialize in either interpretation or translation.

This blog will explain the critical differences between interpreting and translating.

Written vs. Oral

The most apparent difference between interpreters and translators is the medium used to perform their work. Translators typically operate in a written medium, translating text from one language into another, and can do this work conveniently from their desks. 

Interpreters provide their language services orally as they translate the speech of one or more parties, typically in a real-time environment.

Accuracy vs. Intent

Translation services emphasize accuracy, often involving legal or professional documents translated to the greatest possible degree of accuracy. In addition, contracts, technical documents, and other business materials require precise translations to ensure their content and validity are preserved through the translation process.

Interpretation services are flexible regarding their language needs because they are delivered in real time. Interpreters focus on conveying the intent of speeches, conversations, Q&A sessions, and other oral communications to quickly and correctly communicate messaging and context to an audience—with the understanding that there’s always some margin for error.

The Role of Technology

Because translators can work at their own pace and their work’s accuracy is critical, they often use technology to support their efforts and enhance the quality of their finished product. In addition to workflows that manage overall translation projects through each stage of the process, this technology can also include machine translations and translation memory (TM) management. These solutions can help expedite specific translation tasks while ensuring consistency through client-specific glossaries and style guides.

While interpreters work in a live environment, making human interpreters provide their language services without the use of software or other reference tools.

Instant vs. Delayed Delivery

While interpreters provide their services on the spot, translators take time to complete projects using workflows and other processes that provide quality assurance to the end product. As a result, translation projects can take days, weeks, or even longer to deliver to clients based on the size of the project and the agreed-upon timeline for completion.

Single Direction vs. Bi-Directional Service

Translators typically work in a single direction, translating from the source language into the target language. As a result, translators only need to be able to translate text in one direction, from the source to the target language. 

Interpreters may go back and forth translating conversations and exchanges between individuals in two languages, which requires the interpreter to be equally fluent in the localized contexts of both languages.

The Role of Non-Verbal Communication

Translators need to consider only the text when translating language. On the other hand, interpreters must consider non-verbal communication and the speaker’s tone, the inflections in the speaker’s voice, gestures, facial expressions, and general body language to better understand the context and provide precise interpretation of the speaker’s intent.

Language Services for Any Business Need

Whether you need translation, interpretation, or both services, you should search for a language service provider (LSP) with extensive experience providing these services across hundreds of different language pairings. 

For over 160 years, BIG Language Solutions has maintained a vast network of translators and interpreters, offering professional language services to business clients worldwide. Contact us today to learn how our translating and interpreting services will serve your needs and exceed expectations.

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