Translators and interpreters are two helpful linguistic aids. Yet they are typically performed by two entirely different people. In the list of skills required to be translators vs. interpreters, the differences lie in skillset, prior training, proficiency, and even deep knowledge of languages. Since the skillsets require different types of training, few people can do both effectively and professionally.

On a surface level, the difference between interpreters and translators is the way of performance: the interpreter will typically translate using spoken words, while a translator will interpret using written text. Both interpreters and translators assume a deep love for languages and usually take on a variety of different languages that they specialize in.

Let’s take a closer look at the 5 major differences between translators vs. interpreters.

A Quick Overview: Interpreters

Interpreters provide a service that happens with instantaneous results. Their method of delivery is always given live, either simultaneously as the speaker is speaking or immediately after, relaying the message in phrases. Since the interpretation is provided in the moment, interpreters don’t require help from pre-written dialogues or dictionaries. In an instant, the interpreter needs to translate the source language while keeping in context, rephrasing for culturally specific references, like idioms, in ways that the audience can understand. The only resources an interpreter requires come from experiences, an outstanding memory, and constant training to stay up-to-date with the culture being translated.

Interpreters are usually employed for live events such as international meetings, one-on-one conversations, legal proceedings, TV coverage, and live concerts.

A Quick Overview: Translators

Most professional translators use technology and computer software programs to aid their work. Translators will focus on converting the source language into a file that’s easy to work with, applying a translation memory to the text for automatic translation for anything the tool can recognize as translated before and fills the gaps in from accordingly. For each section of content, the translator may refer to dictionaries connecting the languages that need to be translated and style guides to ensure quality based on the project. Once this step is complete, the translator will pass the content to a fellow linguist for proofreading, then change the final document back into its original state, to keep with formatting needs.

Translators will take work from almost any written form: Websites, print media, subtitles, programs and software, and other multimedia content. Translators can be utilized with almost any written text, on the web or out in the world.


As stated earlier, interpreters deal with real-time translation using in-the-moment speech. Translators on the other hand take a pre-written script or text from almost any source and go through a process of translating it into another language using advanced software tools and specific formatting.

Delivery Method

Interpretation takes place in the moment. This translation process doesn’t have to happen in person. Interpreters can provide work over the phone, or through video conference. Translation, however, is not at all instantaneous. Translators can work on projects long after the original text was created. This gives them enough time to use special programs and reference materials to create accurate translations, formatting for the project.

Accurate Translations

Interpreters seem to face the challenge of being super accurate due to time constraints. It’s much more complex delivering translation in the moment. For instance, some of the original language may be left out if the interpreter doesn’t deem it necessary for proper translation. Translators certainly have time on their hands to provide an accurate piece of translation.


Translators can usually keep to one language at a time. Every project they take on is getting translated from one language to their mother tongue. Interpreters cannot afford this luxury. They must be fluent in multiple languages as well as their own in order to gain popularity for more projects.

Parts of Language

Certain parts of language like metaphors and idioms that can help add meaning to a speech or text can be a challenge that both interpreters and translators face. Interpreters must not only translate these intricate parts of speech, but they must do their best to mimic the tone and voice quality of the original speaker to correctly convey verbal cues to the audience.

Translators vs. Interpreters: We Know the Difference

If you’re looking for accurate, professional translation or interpretation services, please contact inWhatLanguage. Allow us to be your partner in translating your content, from marketing materials to business documentation. We offer language services for maximized growth and technology designed to enhance the language management experience. Contact us today for a superior translation.