CommGap International Language Services


Do you need a translator or an interpreter? What’s the difference?

March 10th, 2020

The terms translator and interpreter seem to get thrown around a lot interchangeably, which can make fulfilling your localization needs a little confusing. The two are, in fact, very different, and it’s important to understand their roles in the world of localization.

To help you figure out whether you need a translator or an interpreter, let’s take a look at the main differences between them, and what exactly they do.


A translator takes written documents, and translates them into other languages. If you have a website or any other text that needs to be accessible to in another language, you need a translator. Translators may also transcribe documents, converting audio files into text in various languages.

Professional translators either choose to study translation formally in school, or become certified through a prior knowledge and proficiency in a second language. The ATA (American Translators Association) currently has a pass rate below twenty percent, making it one of the most difficult and credible certifications in the country.

Many translators end up specializing in terminology specific to their field of interest or experience, such as law or medicine. As far as pricing goes, translators often charge per word and require a minimum word count per project.


An interpreter is someone who interprets speech from one language to another. Real-time interpreting is either done simultaneously (at the same time as the speaker), or consecutively (repeating phrases). If you need help communicating verbally with someone who doesn’t speak your language, you need an interpreter.

Interpreters are commonly employed in hospitals to help bridge the communication gap between medical professionals and patients who speak different languages.

You may also need an interpreter for a phone call or video chat, or for a conference with attendees who speak various languages.

To become a professional interpreter you can study interpretation in specialized programs, and/or become certified through various institutions like the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters.

In terms of pricing, interpreters are likely to charge by the hour, and rates can vary depending on the language required, and years of experience.

To summarize: the main difference between translators and interpreters is that translators work with written text, while interpreters deal with language orally. Both require a high-level of skill, experience, and education.

Whether you need a translator or interpreter, CommGap provides top-notch services in over 140 languages.