CALL US NOW +353 (0)1 619 0209

The Difference between Interpreters and Translators


It is a common misunderstanding that interpreters and translators are basically the same thing. Interpretation is often considered by most people as simply another word for translation. True, they perform similar tasks, but they are so different in contexts. Both are important, complex roles involving foreign languages where the interpreter or translator is bilingual or very fluent in a second language - but there are quite a few differences.


Interpreters are defined as those who translate one language orally into another. Translators are those who convert written material from one language to another. Interpreters would be required to have excellent oral communication and listening skills. Translators would be required to have flawless reading and writing skills. It is very unlikely that a person could be just as effective a translator as an interpreter. This is because a person tends to have either stronger listening/speaking skillsets or reading/writing skillsets. It is unusual for a person to have equally strong sets of both skillsets.


Interpreting can take place in a number of surroundings including meetings, conference or telephone conversations. The interpreter will speak the translation in one of two ways. They can translate simultaneously as the speaker makes their speech or presentation using translation equipment. You will tend to see this during news pieces where a reporter may be interviewing a foreign minister while an interpreter acts as a voiceover translating what the minister is saying while they are speaking. They could otherwise choose to translate consecutively, translating the speech after every couple of sentences once the speaker has gone silent. Interviews with foreign football managers to the international press are often conducted in this manner.

Interpreters can have an important role to play in the field of law as they can help to communicate messages between foreign nationals and legal representatives. This service can be of key importance particularly in immigration law cases.


Translation is a process commonly used with newspaper articles, websites, contracts and other literature. A business may hire a translator to translate a contract written in a foreign language from an international supplier. A translator may be required to translate a newspaper article from a foreign country so that the same story can be reported on a website or television news piece. During transfer season, foreign newspapers can often report breaking news regarding English football players from sources in their country which would of course be printed in their native language. Newspapers and news stations in the UK would have to acquire a translator to translate these articles in order to report them to their own readers or viewers.

Some websites may have the ability to be viewed in different language, a feature known as “localisation”. A translator would have to translate the text on a website into a number of languages which could then be incorporated into different webpage options by a web developer.


The next time you see advertisements or mentions of interpreters and translators, you will now be aware that they are indeed quite different roles with equally important purposes.