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The Big Differences Between Translation and Interpretation

Communication is one of the cornerstones of society, and it’s important for virtually every segment of business and infrastructure. In today’s world, interacting and communicating often mean being able to bridge language barriers effectively. That’s why translation and interpretation have become so vital.

However, many don’t fully understand all the different elements involved in translation, or that there is actually a significant difference between translation and interpretation. Knowing what you need and what the differences and benefits of the two services are will help ensure that you get the right results for your project or situation. Let’s take a closer look at each of them first.


Interpretation is generally the process of translating a spoken language orally. It happens either in real time or just after a speech or discussion occurs. While an interpreter often reviews scripts, glossaries, and reference materials in advance, during the interpreting session, there often isn’t time to refer to them, so it’s up to the interpreter to use their skills, knowledge and previous research to transpose the source language into another language complete with context, subtext, idioms, and intent intact.

Interpreters need a deep understanding of both languages involved, a good memory, fast thinking, and an in-depth understanding of the subject at hand as well. This way, they can quickly and accurately deliver the message in another language while preserving the underlying subtext and meaning.


Translation is just as important, but it works differently. Translation is a text-based situation wherein the translator has access to software, reference materials, and dictionaries that they can use to create a full translation of a document or a piece of text.

Throughout this process, accuracy is even more important when the translated documents are published or used in sensitive situations. For example, companies in the medical field need accurate translation to ensure that the products and services they sell are used as intended. Translations of this nature are generally also reviewed by another linguist upon completion to ensure complete accuracy.

What Do You Need?

Often, businesses or organizations end up needing both interpretation and translation services. This may be at different times, but each will often have a place in any field. Consider a couple things to help make an informed choice:

  • Delivery – Does the translation need to be done in real time, either in person, on the phone, or via live video? If so, you need an interpreter.
  • Format – Will your text be printed, included in a video or shared on your website? Then you need translation, which is delivered in a variety of written formats.



Whether you need fast, accurate, live interpretation for an upcoming seminar or need professional translation for a document, getting the help of professionals is important. Our team is made of up of experts in more than 80 languages and fields of study, so you can rest easy knowing that you’ll get the best results every time. Contact ITC Translations today to learn more.

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