In essence, the difference between an interpreter and a translator is the mode of communication whereby an interpreter deals with spoken or signed language, and a translator works with the written document.  An interpreter and a translator are both language professionals, but they perform different roles and work in different contexts.

Here's a breakdown of the differences between the two:

An interpreter is a person who converts spoken or signed language from one language to another. They facilitate communication between two or more parties who do not share a common language. In Australia, interpreters receive their formal governement certifications from an organisation called NAATI.  Interpreters must possess excellent listening and speaking skills, as they need to quickly and accurately convey the meaning and tone of the spoken words.

Examples of where interpreter services are required

  1. Business meetings: In international business settings, interpreters help bridge language barriers between participants, allowing them to communicate effectively.
  2. Conferences and seminars: Interpreters are often employed to provide simultaneous interpretation during large events where participants speak different languages.
  3. Legal proceedings: Interpreters assist in courtrooms, enabling defendants, witnesses, and legal professionals to understand and communicate their statements accurately.
  4. Medical settings: Interpreters aid healthcare professionals in communicating with patients who speak different languages, ensuring accurate diagnoses and treatment. In Australia, each State goverment manages their own interpreter services for health and hospitals. 
    1.  VicHealth
    2. Multicultural NSW
    3. QLD Health


Examples of where a translator is required

A translator, on the other hand, works with written texts and converts written content from one language to another. They focus on transferring the meaning, tone, and context of the source text into the target language while maintaining accuracy and cultural nuances.

  1. Literature: Translators bring books, poems, and other literary works from one language to another, making them accessible to a wider audience.
  2. Localization: Companies often employ translators to adapt their software, websites, and marketing materials to different languages and cultures.
  3. Legal documents: Translators are needed to accurately translate legal contracts, patents, and other legal texts, ensuring that the meaning is preserved and legally valid in the target language.
  4. Subtitling and dubbing: Translators play a crucial role in translating movies, TV shows, and videos, either by creating subtitles or dubbing the content into another language.

Interpreters focus on oral communication, whereas translators work with written texts. Interpreters are commonly used in meetings, conferences, legal proceedings, and healthcare settings, while translators are employed in literary works, localization projects, legal documents, and audiovisual content.