Translation vs. Interpretation: How Do They Differ?


difference between translation and interpretation

At Kent State University, our Department of Modern and Classical Language Studies wants to help guide your path and open doors to becoming a part of the growing language industry. Learning about the difference between “interpreting” and “translating” as industry terms is the first step into jumpstarting your educational career path.

Translation and interpreting are needed to enable communication between cultures and across languages. In a world where communication is key, it is necessary to use the help of interpreters and translators to effectively communicate.

Although interpreters and translators have similarities, interpreting and translation involve different skillsets. Interpreters mediate languages orally while translators work with written material. When it comes to language skills, translators need to have solid reading comprehension, transfer, and target language production skills. Interpreters need to optimize their working memory in rendering content much more quickly and with no extensive access to external resources for support.

Learning the Difference Between Translation and Interpretation

Often, the difference between translation and interpretation is confused. So, what is the real difference between the two? To directly compare translation vs. interpretation, we need to evaluate some key aspects.

On a general level, the difference between interpretation and translation is that interpretation deals with spoken language in real time while translation focuses on written content. Another difference is that translation happens over a period of time with extensive access to external resources, compared to interpretation which occurs on the spot during a live scenario. Below, we will dive deeper into translation vs. interpretation.


When working within the translation field, one is working to successfully decipher the meaning of written content from a source language into the language that is targeted. One of the biggest differences between translation vs. interpretation is that translators often use a wider range of computer-assisted tools when working.

Translators are able to use software, such as a translation memory and a termbase, that facilitates the translation process and quickly fills in the missing gaps. They are able to go through text and refer to other written materials such as parallel texts to ensure an accurate translation. Translators focus on working with written materials like print or websites, which is one main difference between translation and interpretation.


Interpretation focuses more on paraphrasing the content that the speaker is trying to convey. An interpreter, someone who repeats the message but in a different language, deals with live conversation, which can include translating meetings, conferences, appointments, live TV, and more. Since interpretation is in real time, it requires someone who is able to work under pressure with excellent communication skills.

Our Online Master in Translation Program

If you are looking to further your language career, Kent State offers an Online Master’s in Translation program. The Gawlicki Family Foundation Online M.A in Translation allows students to attain a firm foundation in the principles and practices of translation so they can venture on to professional roles.

Our fully online master’s degree in translation offers the following focuses:

With the flexibility of our Online Masters in Translation program, students and working professionals are able to work from anywhere in the world and will master interpretation and translation through the assistance of our dedicated faculty.

Start Your Language Journey with Kent State

When deciding to join our M.A. in Translation program, you are choosing to gain vital skills to put you on the path to a successful career.

Ready to join one of the most comprehensive foreign language departments in northeast Ohio? Apply today! You can also reach out to us with any questions you may have.