The difference between Interpreters and Translators


Worldwide Interpreters is a language service agency offering both interpreting and translating services. Often, the words interpretation and translation are used interchangeably. So then, what’s the difference between interpreting and translating?

The difference

Helping someone understand a different language is a common thread between interpreting and translating, but it’s in the service where the difference comes out.

Interpreting services cover all oral communication

Translating services covers all written communication

Immediate interpreting services

Interpreters deal with oral communication. To help remember, I like to think of Interpreting as Immediate.


An interpreter listens to spoken words in one language and within seconds (immediate) speaks or signals the interpretation into a second language. Interpreters must be fluent in both the source and target language.

Not only does the interpreter listen and remember but they also process the words into the context of culture. Because of cultural differences in both language and communication, the interpreter often paraphrases or rewords the statements.

Interpreters must capture the tone, inflections, voice quality, and other unique elements of the spoken word and then convey these verbal cues to the audience.

As you can understand, the skills and abilities of an interpreter are highly specialized and require concentration, quick thinking, and a good memory.

Tools of the trade

Unfortunately, an interpreter doesn’t have many physical tools to aid in carrying out their duties. A notepad and pen or pencil may be their only tools.


Depending upon the scenario an interpreter may carry out their work in isolation only listening through a headset.  This helps the interpreter to keep distractions down to an absolute minimum.

Other than the interpreter booth, interpreters are usually in plain sight, face-to-face and in the public eye.




Projects: Interpreters work on projects involving live translation in person, over the phone, or via video. Usually, Interpreters travel to different locations such as conferences, meetings, medical appointments and legal proceedings.

Time for Translating services

Translators deal with written words. To help remember, I like to think of Translating services that deal with text and time.


Translators usually have ample time to utilize technologies and reference materials to generate accurate, high-quality translations.

A translator reads documents either written or online in one language and translates them into a second language. Translators have more time because translation can happen long after the source text is created.

A translator produces translated text that feels as if it were created in the language it is presented. To do this, translators almost always only translate into their native language. However, the translator understands the source language and the culture of the country where the text originated as much as they have a knowledge and an understanding of the culture of the target language.

Translators are very detail oriented people with excellent grammar and spelling in both languages. Also, many translators are very proficient with technology as some of the tools and projects are software based.

Tools of the Trade


Translators can make use of CAT tools, dictionaries and a vast database of reference material at their disposal.

Projects: Translators work on any information in written form: Websites, print, video, and software. Translators may work with legal and medical documents, gaming software, and movie subtitles to name a few.



Which service do you need?

I hope this information helps you to learn the difference between interpreting and translating services. Please contact me for more details on how Worldwide Interpreters can help you with all your interpreting and translating needs.