Interpretation vs translation
Posted by: GibranAdmin Category: Translation, English, Localization Comments: 0

Translation vs. Interpretation vs. Subtitling: What’s the Difference?

In today’s globalized world, where all borders are broken, language moves from one place to another fast, holding culture, emotions and principles with it. However, converting one language to another differs depending on the nature of the text we are dealing with, as a result the process is different.

In this regard, there are main language services that are important in our life, including translation, interpretation, transcreation and subtitling. Although they all involve facilitating communication across languages, each service has unique features and is best suited for different situations. Yet a lot of people get confused when it comes to the use of each of these services.

What is the difference between translation, interpretation, transcreation and subtitling? And what exactly does each service provide?


Translation is the process of rendering written or text-based content from one language into another. It is often used to translate documents, marketing materials, or web content. The primary goal of translation is to convey meaning from the source text to the target text as accurately and faithfully as possible.

There are many aspects involved in translating a text – including linguistic, grammatical rules, semantics, and the structure of the original language – that must be taken into consideration and implemented smoothly in the new text. It is important that the outcome – the translated text – holds all the meanings and linguistic structure of its own. So that the message has the best possible chance of resonating with the new audience the same way it did with the original audience, the new audience will have a better chance of resonating with the message.


On the other hand, interpretation is the process of orally conveying a message from one spoken language to another. It is often used in settings such as business meetings, seminars, legal proceedings and political conferences. In fact, this process holds a lot of challenges, as Interpreters have to work in real-time, conveying the speaker’s message as accurately and naturally as possible. In addition, interpretation requires quick thinking, excellent memory, and excellent language skills in both the source and target languages.

It is very common for interpreters to walk into a situation having no idea what the speaker intends to say. This includes how fast the speaker will speak, or how articulate the speaker will be. Due to the fact that time is of the essence, interpreters must learn how to paraphrase accurately in order to save time. There’s no time for second-guessing or backtracking. As a result, there is less emphasis on nuance and shades of meaning when it comes to the interpretation of the original speaker’s message. However, interpreters are expected to convey the message in the same style, tone, and register as the original speaker.


Although translation and interpretation are different, there is a thin line that could be considered to combine the two, that is Subtitling. It is a process of translating spoken language into written language, typically to accompany video content. Subtitles are often used to allow viewers to enjoy films or videos that are in a foreign spoken language. It requires a different skill set than translation or interpretation because the text must be synchronized with the audio, and the language must be adapted to fit the time constraints of the video.

This however is challenging; it is important that the subtitles are easy to read at a glance, as they will be synced to the video at the end and will appear and disappear on the screen as characters talk. It is also essential that the translation does not detract from the original video. The translator should be able to match between the visual and audio content to make it logical for the audience. This also implies keeping the length of subtitles short, 2 lines maximum.


While all of the above services are more related to language, transcreation has to do more with the marketing aspect. Transcreation is a cross between the translation process and the content creation process, which is used primarily in marketing contexts. It’s more about the ability to write copy that resonates emotionally with a new audience and creates a connection with them.

Thus, transcreation can be seen as a more similar process to copywriting in many respects, and it is usually done by copywriters who are subject matter experts within the target market, making them ideally suited for this task. In addition to being more specialized than technical translations, it’s also more expensive, since it’s a more specialized service.

Interpretation vs translation

Translators and interpreters both facilitate communication across languages, but their roles are quite different. Translators work with written text and are responsible for producing high-quality translations that accurately convey the meaning of the source text. They typically work independently and may use translation software to help them produce translations more efficiently.

Interpreters, on the other hand, work with spoken language and must be able to think quickly, understand context, and convey messages accurately in real-time. As the occasions and events they work in are more sensitive and critical, they should have intuitive speed. Also, they must be able to adapt to the environment and the needs of the people they are interpreting for.


In conclusion, translation, interpretation, transcreation and subtitling are all essential language services that enable effective communication across languages. Each service has its unique features and is best suited for different situations. When choosing a language service, consider the context, audience, and goals of the communication. By understanding the differences between these services you can make an informed decision about which service is the best choice for your needs. If you’re still not sure which service is right for you, a professional language service provider can help you determine the best approach based on your specific needs.

It’s also worth noting that quality is essential when it comes to language services. Poor translations or interpretations can lead to miscommunications, misunderstandings, and even legal problems. Working with a professional language service provider ensures that you receive accurate, high-quality translations or interpretations that convey your message clearly and effectively.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *