Difference Between Interpreter and Translator


Ask your circle of friends what the difference is between translating and interpreting. Most will probably answer: “Translate and interpret? It’s one and the same thing!” If that were the case, an interpreter should also be able to translate and a translator should also be able to interpret. But very few can do that. So we are dealing with two different professions. In everyday life, the terms translate and interpret are often used synonymously.

The translation is a craft

A translator translates written texts from one language into another. The result of his work is also a written text. He works on his translation assignment for a certain amount of time; he makes his translation bit by bit. He has enough time to thoroughly analyze the source text. He can look up unfamiliar terms or complicated grammatical constructions if necessary.

In the end, he hands over the finished text to the client – in file or paper format. And if you happen to move to San Francisco and you are struggling with their language, then you can definitely get help from translation services in San Francisco.

This is about specialist knowledge, meticulousness, and research skills: Translation is a craft – a desk job.

Interpreting is mouth work

The interpreter is completely different: he works orally and translates the spoken word in the spirit – at the same time and directly on site. He has to react spontaneously and has no time to deal with the source text or research terms. He must therefore have previously dealt with the respective specialist area in order to be familiar with the specific vocabulary and jargon of the industry.

It’s all about speed, perception, and spontaneity. Interpreting is mouth work – a live job.

Where does the word “interpreter” come from?

“Dolmetscher” is one of the few Hungarian loanwords in German (tolmács). The Hungarian word is borrowed from Turkish (dilmaç, but today tercüman).

What types of translators are there?

Specialist translators are specialized in certain fields of knowledge and translate highly specialized texts such as annual reports and specialist articles, advertising brochures and websites, patent specifications and certificates, manuals, and documentation.

Literary translators translate novels, non-fiction, and specialist books. Here the artistic component plays a much greater role than in functional texts. A literary translator needs a feel for language and a confident sense of style.

Document translators (sworn or sworn or authorized translators) prepare officially certified translations of deeds, certificates, and court documents. With the translation, you also certify the correctness and completeness of the same. This is often required in official legal dealings with authorities or states.

Subtitles work for film, television, and theatre. They formulate short subtitles that reflect the essential content of what was said. At conferences, they act as simultaneous stenographers: using special shorthand software, they convert the spoken word into readable text for the hearing-impaired.

Software localizers translate the menus or user interfaces of computer programs into the language of the respective target market.

The Types of interpreting

Simultaneous interpreters translate the spoken word almost at the same time – i.e. simultaneously. This requires maximum concentration, which is why simultaneous interpreters take turns every 20 to 30 minutes. Simultaneous interpreters are booked for congresses, conferences, and seminars. You work in pairs or threes from a soundproof interpreter booth.

Advantage: The flow of the event is not disturbed, and the audience can easily follow speakers in other languages ​​via headphones. This “contemporaneous” form of interpreting was first used during the Nuremberg Trials after World War II.

Consecutive interpreters translate the spoken word after a speech or alternately with the speaker. With the help of a special note-taking technique, the interpreter records the most important content. He then reads the speech or the excerpt of the speech in the target language.

Disadvantage: A lecture can easily take twice as long. Consecutive interpreters are used, for example, on ceremonial or diplomatic occasions where after-dinner speeches are held.

Whispered interpreters are simultaneous interpreters who translate without technical aids while whispering into the ear of a conversation partner. This is often seen, for example, at joint press conferences by politicians.

Sign language interpreters translate spoken language into sign language and vice versa. Since there is no globally binding sign language, but each country has its own language, it is also possible to interpret one sign language as the other.

Loss-free transmission across language and cultural borders

Finally, the question remains as to whether, despite all the differences between translation and interpreting, there are also similarities.

Both the translator and the interpreter are cultural mediators. Their task is to transmit linguistic content without loss – i.e. without sacrificing substance and meaning.

This is based on the realization that in any linguistic communication between people, different cultural backgrounds must always be taken into account.

Understanding others and being understood is a key success factor in an increasingly globalized world. Professional translation agencies prefer to work with native-speaker translators and interpreters.

You retain the value of your words – and guarantee lossless transmission across all language and cultural borders.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here