What’s The Difference Between an Interpreter and a Translator?

woman comparing the difference between an apple and a pear

Interpreters and Translators Work Together

Did you recently find out there’s a difference between an interpreter and a translator? Perhaps you didn’t even know there was even such a profession as interpreting. Maybe you got scolded by an interpreter you mistakenly called a translator.

You’re not alone and you’ve come to the right place.

Interpreters and translators do different jobs, but their services complement each other.

Interpreters v. Translators

Here are the three most important things you should know about the differences between interpreters and translators:

  1. They have do completely different things. Translators render the written word from one language to another. They work with novels, medical records, legal agreements, and all kinds of documentation. On the other hand, interpreters work with the spoken word. Interpreters work on-site or remotely, interpreting what is said by one person into a language another person can understand. They work with courts, governments, hospitals, customer service agents, and more.
  2. Interpreters and translators have different skills and talents. While there are professionals who both interpret and translate, more often than not, someone specializes in one or the other. That’s because you generally need different skills for each job. Translators need a precise knowledge of a language’s grammar and vocabulary. They work with dictionaries and translation memories to find the most perfect way to render a sentence into another language. Interpreters need to be highly accurate, but must concentrate on speed and delivery. They need to have superior memory retention and impeccable note-taking skills.
  3. They work together and one picks up where the other leaves off. In the U.S., if a patient doesn’t speak English well, an interpreter will help them communicate with a doctor, but if you think about it, medical care doesn’t abruptly end once you leave the doctor’s office. Patients are often provided with a prescription and written directions for care. A translator has to provide a transcript of the doctor’s subsequent written directives for non-English speaking patients.

CLI’s Complete Language Services

CLI puts it all together for our clients. From industry-leading over-the-phone interpreting service available 24/7 to professional translation service, CLI provides a comprehensive and flexible language access solution.

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