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Interpretation vs Translation (2)-1

As our world grows smaller with technological advances and globalization, the need for language services is becoming more evident. Organizations adapting to evolving communication standards may wish (or even be required by law) to incorporate language services, but they may not know where to begin.

When organizations invest in language services, they should be aware of specific terms, such as interpretation and translation. Many people use these terms interchangeably; however, they have unique meanings and describe different services.

Interpretation is the word used when referring to converting spoken and sign languages into other spoken languages. Translation converts written text from one language into the written text of another language. 

While these two professions both deal with converting one language into another, they require different skill sets, training, and methodologies such as:

Direction and Fluency

In interpretation and translation, the official terminology for the language of the original spoken or written message is called the “source language.” The “target language” is the language the message is interpreted or translated into.

Properly trained interpreters have the ability to interpret back and forth between both the source and target languages in a spoken or signed conversation. Translators, on the other hand, rarely translate both directions; they usually convert text from their learned language into their native language.

Delayed vs. Real-Time

Interpreters work in person or remotely via phone or video. They interpret in real time to transpose spoken communication between individuals. Interpreters are trained to interpret meaning-for-meaning rather than word-for-word to convey the full message accurately and quickly.

Translation takes a lot more time to deliver than interpretation because the translated content has to convey the exact tones, meanings, and nuances as the original text. In their work, expert translators have access to glossaries, dictionaries, and other resources to make sure they translate the meaning as the author intended. According to the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), “a translator may translate 2,000-3,000 words a day, while an interpreter has to keep up with around 150 words a minute.”

Project Involvement

An interpreter typically works independently on interpretation calls. For long onsite interpretation sessions, they may swap with another interpreter in shifts. For each translation project, it is an industry standard for translators to work with a translation project team consisting of translators, editors, proofreaders, and project managers. Translation projects typically go through several phases of translation, editing and proofreading to ensure the material retains the intended meaning.


Interested in learning more? Check out our Services page for more information on how CyraCom’s suite of language services is the right choice for your organization.