What is the difference between translation and interpretation?

A common misconception is the idea that translators and interpreters do the same thing. In fact, translation and interpretation are very different.

translation vs interpretation


Translation revolves around the written word: if you have a document such as an international contract, marketing brochure, book, manual, or survey that needs to be communicated in another language, you need a translator.


Some examples of translation projects:

  • A market research company in New York needed a segmentation study questionnaire translated into Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.
  • Arabic translation of family education documents for a hospital in Boston. 
  • Translation of tuition information for international students into Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Spanish for a Philadelphia University. 


Interpretation involves oral communication. If you have an investor visiting from Japan, a diplomat from Brazil, or a Korean immigrant in a court trial, you need an interpreter to interpret the spoken word.

There are two types of interpretation: simultaneous and consecutive. Simultaneous interpreters anticipate what the speaker is going to say, and interpret at the same time as the speaker is speaking. Less taxing is consecutive interpretation, when an interpreter waits until the speaker has finished a sentence or phrase before conveying that message to the audience’s target language.

Some examples of interpretation projects:

  • Simultaneous interpretation services and equipment for the 2012 Chiefs of Defense (CHoD) conference, a prestigious meeting of all high-ranking military representatives of the 36 major Asia-Pacific countries.
  • Korean interpretation for an interview between Anderson Cooper and a human rights activist for CBS News. 
  • Consecutive telephonic interpretation of 13 interviews into Japanese and Mandarin on the topic of investigating depression with psychiatrists.


To find out more about CETRA Language Solutions’ services download the guide below!