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The Differences Between Translation & Interpreting

In order for businesses to thrive in the global market, they need to be able to communicate with international audiences through translators and interpreters. Translation and interpreting are such closely related linguistic fields that many people find hard to differentiate between them. Although they are very similar in their nature, each is a separate service – translation involves the written word, whereas interpreting involves the spoken word. If you’re unsure of how they differ from each other, this handy guide should make things a little clearer.

  • Translation

In simple terms, translation is the process of taking written content from one language and converting it into another. This written content could include websites, software, multimedia and print, particularly business-based communications and legal documentation. This process is carried out by experienced linguists who carefully translate each section of the text, referring to glossaries and style guides to ensure accuracy while also ensuring your intended message is delivered. Translators usually work in one direction (into their mother tongue language), converting the ‘source language’ into the ‘target language’. The translated document can then be checked by another linguist to ensure the best possible result.

  • Interpreting

Interpreters work in real-time, relaying the source language message into the target language and vice versa, to convey what is being said. Interpreting is generally used in situations such as conferences, legal proceedings, meetings, and interviews. Interpreters transfer the message from one language to another ‘on the spot’, all the while rephrasing idioms, colloquialisms and other culturally specific references. When choosing an interpreter, as well as interpreting experience, an expert level of knowledge in the particular subject area is vital.

The finer details


  • Translation can happen at any point after the source content is created.
  • Interpreting takes place in real-time, for example, face-to-face, on the phone or via live video.

Time scales

  • Translation occurs over a set period of time in which the text can be read, analysed and revised.
  • Interpreters on the other hand, aren’t given the same amount of time due to the live, fast-paced nature of speech. Instead, delivering an ‘on the spot’ interpretation.


  • Translation involves making metaphors, analogies and idioms resonate with the target audience. Translators are able to use style guides and research to help them do this.
  • Interpreting involves the above but also needs to capture the tone, inflexions and emphasis that the spoken word entails in order to convey the appropriate message to the audience in a language they understand.

How we can help

At Freeman Williams, we know how important it is to make sure your language services are accurate. Our in-house staff are highly-qualified linguists with many years of experience, so we guarantee to provide the best possible service, whatever your translation or interpreting needs.

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What our clients say...

“Freeman Williams has provided important translation services to our company since 2012. Working primarily on a regular business publication for one of our Formula One clients, Freeman Williams has been a trusted partner, always delivering on time, to tight deadlines, and with utmost professionalism and attention to detail – precisely the sort of traits required for the fast paced nature of our work.”

Head of PR and Communications, Sports Activation Agency

“Our company has worked with Freeman Williams for many years and they are an important and valued supplier to the business. They have completed numerous translations of differing technical complexity, across multiple languages, and we have always found them to be professional, responsive and dedicated to providing an excellent service. We would have no hesitation in recommending them to others.”

Marketing Manager, Software Solutions

“We need a translation service we can trust, which can operate quickly, accurately and flexibly and has no problem dealing with technical material. Freeman Williams delivers all this – the friendly approach is a bonus.”

Senior Account Manager, Public Relations Company

“Working with Freeman Williams is a refreshing change, a company with the same ethos as our own, nothing seems to be too much trouble and they always go the extra mile. We have successfully worked with them for many years on various multi-lingual publications for our clients in the fields of bitumen production and construction machinery. The quality of the translations is excellent and professionalism of the company is refreshing.”

Director, Multi-Media Communications Company

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