A Guide to 8 Major Differences Between Translator and Interpreter & Who to Work With

Apr 4, 2023 | Interpretation, Translation

Translator and interpreter

If you work in a global market, it is likely that your company has a need for linguistic services, such as hiring interpreters or translators.

The demand for language services has increased due to greater cultural diversity and multilingualism across the globe.

Plus, if you want to succeed in the global marketplace, you are likely to require some interpretation or translation services along the way.

The terms interpreter and translator are often used interchangeably to mean the same thing.

However, they are in fact separate disciplines with different skills and abilities.

What Are the Differences Between Translator and Interpreter

Translators and interpreters both work with foreign languages and transfer the meaning from the source language to another language.

Because of these similarities, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

However, here we will explore 8 key differences between translators and interpreters and explore what this might mean for your business when choosing which linguistic service you require:

Spoken Word vs. Written Word

While both interpreters and translators aim to transfer the meaning from one language into another, their methods differ.

Translators work with written text, and typically translate into their mother tongue.

They can use dictionaries and other language-specific translation tools to cross-reference their work.

Interpreters, on the other hand, deal with spoken word. They will usually be asked to work with two languages, interpreting the speaker’s language in real time to ensure all parties can gain an understanding of what is being said.

This may involve listening and interpreting more than one language at a fast pace.

This will usually be in person, but with advances in technology, some interpreters may work over video link or over the telephone.

You may require an interpreter for your call center, for example. What is an outbound call center? This is where you are calling customers directly for leads, market research, or customer service follow-ups.

Having an interpreter available in some cases will be highly beneficial in the global market.


Interpreters and translators are likely to charge for their services in a slightly different way because of the differences in the service they offer.

A translator is likely to charge per word or per page, while an interpreter is more likely to charge an hourly rate.

Pace of Work

As mentioned previously, interpreters work with spoken word in real time, whereas translators work with the written word.

This means that translators generally have time on their side and can cross-reference their work and ensure it is accurate.

Although it is not as time sensitive, deadlines usually still apply.

You may be looking to have some key policies translated into different languages for global marketplaces.

Using a translator alongside software such as beSlick process management could transform the way you do business globally.

One Language vs. Two Languages

A translator will be tasked with translating a piece of work from one foreign language into their mother tongue.

It is uncommon (although not unheard of) for translators to translate from their mother tongue into another language.

Interpreters, on the other hand, must work with 2 or more languages and translate meaning both ways.

In a spoken conversation, they will likely be listening to and interpreting one speaker and then doing the same for the other member of the conversation.


Because of the nature of their service, translators can typically work remotely anywhere in the world.

This means that businesses have a huge pool of translators they can work with, and many companies choose to outsource translation services.

Interpreters will typically work with clients in person. This need for them to be physically present may mean that the hiring pool for interpreters for your business may be smaller.

However, advances in video conferencing mean that it may be appropriate for your interpreter to join you virtually.

There are many excellent video conferencing solutions on the market. Dialpad compares video conferencing tools, which is a good place to start investigating which one is the best fit for you.

Use of Resources

Translators generally have access to tools such as dictionaries and computer aided translation (CAT) software.

Some companies may have particular software they wish translators to use, and can use remote vendor access to facilitate this.

Due to the time sensitive nature of their job, interpreters must use their memory and knowledge of language as their main resource.


While interpreters will strive to be as accurate as possible when transferring the meaning from one language to another, there may be challenges in guaranteeing complete accuracy due to the pace at which they work.

Translators usually have time on their hands and the ability to check their work before submitting it to the client.

Non-verbal Communication

As we have established, translators work only with written text. Interpreters, on the other hand, must take a more holistic approach to their role.

This means taking into consideration the speaker’s tone, facial expressions and body language to ensure they reflect the true meaning and intent of the message.

Should You Hire an Interpreter or a Translator?

It is clear that there are similarities between interpreters and translators, but key differences mean that you would hire them for quite different services.

When you hire someone, have a look at the contract templates you can use for hiring process.

When deciding which linguistic service you require, ensure you truly understand the role of an interpreter vs. a translator and choose the best fit for the needs of your business.