Do you need an Interpreter or a Translator?

The explosion of globalisation has posed a mandate for businesses quenching for global expansion to prep up for talking the language of their customers irrespective of where they are located across the globe.

However, localisation services still prove to be a cornerstone for many international corporate empires as businesses or individuals often get confused with whether they need a translator or an interpreter for their localisation needs.

Translation and Interpretation: Same but different

Broadly speaking, while interpreting deals with something that is said, translation is all about translating something that is written. Translators convert written copy (in the case of audio files and video, they usually transcribe the copy from the original file) into other languages whereas an interpreter’s role involves working with spoken communication.

These two most commonly used localisation disciplines share similarities in many ways, while differ in others. Here’s a quick look at the similarities and differences translators and interpreters bring with them.

Both need a Source and Target LanguageInterpreter deals with spoken and are usually paid by the hour or the day while translator deals with written communication and are normally paid by the word or page
Both require specific academic discipline and professional qualifications to exercise their jobs and are known as linguistsWhile an interpreter needs to translate back and forth, translators however, usually only translate into a specific language with no need to translate back into the original source language
Both works with the primary goal of translating a message from one language to anotherInterpreters translate in real-time on the spot whereas a translator gets much more time to perform the translation
Both need to have thorough knowledge of at least the two languages that includes fluency, sentence structure, grammar, idioms, slang, and more.While interpreters don’t have the convenience of any reference materials or technology as they must translate immediately, contrarily, translators, with more time on their hands can put these to use for better results
Both are well-worsed with cultural knowledge of the languages they work withTranslators have the privilege to pass the translated document to editors for proofing but live translation for interpreters leave no time for editors
Both must retain the intact meaning of the message to be translatedInterpreters often use paraphrasing to convey the gist of what is said, translator on the other hand, must translate the source document in its entirety

Key to successful localisation: Know your need

Although businesses and individuals are now utilising localisation services, there’s still a bottleneck for the customer even before they approach an LSP for their localisation need; to decide whether they need a translator or interpreter? A simple and effective answer to this is for a live, on the spot translation for spoken communication, you need an interpreter, while for translating written works you need a translator. Once there’s certainty of the service needed, it becomes easy to identify what type of translation or interpreting service would suit the need. Irrespective of the service needed, thorough preparation is key to success. The better informed your language professionals are, the better equipped they are for the task at hand.

thebigword: Your trusted localisation partner

thebigword understands the vitality of a fast, instant service, which is why we provide on demand, state-of-the-art technology for clients to book and use our world class localisation service within minutes.

thebigword offers a variety of different post-edit activities and  we customise our post-editing workflows for each client. MTPE solutions focus on creating lasting content that is cost-driven and is suitable for high volume web content.

Similarly, thebigword offers various types of interpreting services to global brands, which includes telephone interpreting, video remote interpreting, BSL interpreting and face to face interpreting.

For more information about our translation and interpretation solutions, please write to or visit