Translator or Interpreter? What's the difference?

To translate or to interpret? That is the question. Interpreting and translation are two very close professions which tend to be often confused between one another; in fact many potential clients contact translators when instead they're actually looking for an interpreter or vice versa. Let's see the main differences.

- Interpreters orally translate spoken words

- Translators translate written words

- Interpreters have to translate on the spot, without using dictionaries, must be good at

listening, taking notes (consecutive interpretation) and memorizing what the speaker said

while instantly translating and interpreting idioms, colloquialisms (simultaneous


- Translators master their writing skills both into the source and target language.

- Interpreters have to dress formally.

- Translators can work from home in their pyjamas.

An example of interpreter could be the man sitting next to president Obama, during a conference, while a translator could be someone who has to translate a book or a TV show's subtitles.

Can you be both? That depends; you can probably be a translator if you already are an interpreter (as long as you have good writing skills and excellent time management) but it's not always the same for the opposite situation, as not everyone has the ability to think so quickly in two different languages.

Translators and interpreters must have excellent communication skills, a deep understanding of the language and culture as well as fully understand the message in order to translate it clearly.

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