Most people assume that translators and interpreters are same professionals and they do the same job. Although some translators are also interpreters, this is not the case for everybody.

What do translators do?

Translators work on written documents. They are typically paid by word or characters or sometimes per lines. They are expected to have advanced reading and writing skills; in-depth knowledge on grammar, syntax, redundancy, style and register.

Most translators work remotely without commuting to an office on a daily basis. There also in-house translators working either at translation offices or for government and/or private organizations.

Translators may also undertake video subtitling assignments which is generally paid by the minute.

Translators need excellent proofreading skills and keen eyes to spot their own errors, i.e. typos, spelling, grammar, usage or inconsistencies.

Modern translators also need IT skills because translations are performed and/or managed using computer tools. These computer tools (CAT tools) help manage terminology, correct typos and remind the translator similarities with previously translated sentences.


What do interpreters do?

Interpreters work at meetings, conferences, hospitals, courts or police stations and perform consecutive or simultaneous interpreting (verbally translate) from one language to the other.

Interpreters may also work remotely on the phone or by using a mobile/web application.

Interpreters are typically paid by the day, hour, session or minute, depending on their contract.

Interpreting requires advanced listening and speaking skills; including clear enunciation, voice projection and discourse structuring. Interpreters have an amazing memory and are very good in note taking. 

Interpreters also need soft skills because they deal with humans. Being an emphatatic listener is a must and there are times when interpreters need to act as a cultural mediator or a business liaison and even a diplomatic officer to comfortably and peacefully perform their profession.

Let us give you sample use cases to help you better understand the difference of these two professions.

Translators translate academic presentations and slides; interpreters interpret for the speakers or listeners of meetings.

Translators translate indictments, power of attorneys, passports, witness statements; interpreters interpret between the court, the defendant and the claimant.

Translators translate press releases; interpreters interpret during the press conference and the QA session.

Dragoman offers translation, interpreting and video subtitling services to over 500 brands.