<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1379827282144964&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">
Blog

Translation vs. Interpretation: What’s the Difference?

April 26, 2022   -   Posted by GLOBO

Unless you use language services often or are in the language industry yourself, the various terms used can be slightly confusing. However, it's important to understand the nuances involved. One of the most common misunderstandings is the difference between interpreting and translating. While each process is critical in providing language access to limited-English speakers, the terms mean entirely different things.

Here is a complete breakdown of the differences between interpretation and translation and how each works to provide multilingual support, as well as some common use cases we frequently see across popular industries we serve.

 

Interpretation

Interpretation is used for spoken language. It is delivered orally and contemporaneously, immediately after the words are spoken. Interpreters do not use dictionaries, scripts, or other assistance materials but rely instead on their deep knowledge of both languages. Interpretation is not simply a matter of translating individual words. Interpreters need to capture idioms, cultural references, and colloquialisms and then rephrase them into something that makes sense in the second language, all without changing the speaker's original meaning.

Interpreters work back and forth between two languages in real-time. Therefore, they must be highly fluent in both languages and able to switch from one to the other effortlessly.

 

Use cases for interpretation in healthcare

In healthcare, interpreters are often in the room during medical appointments. Even if a patient is reasonably fluent in English, an interpreter may be needed during complex discussions of diagnoses and treatment options. Patients who speak little or no English may need an interpreter through all parts of a healthcare visit, from scheduling through follow-up.

  • Scheduling: While scheduling an appointment over the phone.
  • Visit Prep: Patient may receive information regarding financial counseling, registration, insurance verification and required activities (i.e. no eating).
  • Travel/Navigation: Patient may need to schedule ride assistance. 
  • During the Visit: While the patient communicates with the provider.
  • Check-out: The patient engages in administrative interactions, including follow-up scheduling, treatment plans and instructions. The patient may also need to receive ride assistance home from the appointment.
  • RX/Tests: Upon discharge, patients may receive medication instructions and any test results.
  • Follow-up Care & Communication: The patient receives their medical bill and a patient satisfaction survey request, communicates with their provider via their patient portal and receives care information.

 

Other Industries

Interpreting for Insurance

It can be challenging for many native speakers to understand the intricacies of shopping for and acquiring an insurance policy. Depending on an individual's English proficiency level, you may need to provide interpreting services for all points of contact, from selling policies to walking customers through the claims process.

Interpreting for Customer Service/Contact Centers 

For many businesses, the customer service center is the main or sole point of contact for customers who have an issue with a product or service. Without language support services, customers with limited-English proficiency would have little recourse to settle their concerns. To prevent misunderstandings, an interpreter should be available from the time a customer makes contact until the time the matter is settled.

 

Translation

Translation is used for written language. Unlike interpretation, translation does not happen in real-time. Translators usually use computer-aided tools, along with any needed reference materials, to assist with their work. In addition, translation services are one-way: from one language to another, but not back again.

Translation can occur long after the original document was written, and, depending on the work's length and complexity, it may take some time for a document to be accurately translated.

 

Use cases for translation in healthcare

A great deal of patient communication uses written documents, from informed consent forms to discharge instructions to informative brochures. For patients to be full participants in their own healthcare plans, professional translations of these documents must be provided.

  • Marketing: Patient is exposed to ads & marketing campaigns, explores physician directory & website. 
  • Scheduling: Patient reviews provider options via the website, select a provider who rates favorably for Language Access, schedules appointment via the website, and selects language preference. 
  • Visit Prep: Patient downloads mobile application. Patient may receive information regarding financial counseling, registration, insurance verification and required activities (i.e. no eating).
  • Travel/Navigation: Patient may need to schedule ride assistance. Patient is greeted upon arrival and receives documentation regarding their right to an interpreter. 
  • During the Visit: While the patient communicates with the provider.
  • Check-out: The patient engages in administrative interactions, including follow-up scheduling, treatment plans and instructions. The patient may also need to receive ride assistance home from the appointment.
  • RX/Tests: Upon discharge, the patient receives medication instructions and any results. 
  • Follow-up Care & Communication: The patient receives their medical bill and a patient satisfaction survey request, communicates with their provider via their patient portal and receives care information.

Other Industries

Translation for Insurance

The insurance industry relies on the written word for everything from policy documents to claims forms. Professional translation of these documents ensures that customers know exactly what their coverage is and that they are able to file timely claims.

Translation for Customer Service/Contact Centers

A great deal of customer service recovery relies on written communications. Your customer may need to fill out a refund request or other form, but this is difficult or impossible for those with limited-English proficiency. Providing an accurate translation of these items helps you provide quality service to all of your customers, regardless of what language they speak.

 

Which language services do you need?

Though interpreting and translating are certainly connected by purpose, the two services meet very different needs and require completely different skill sets. While you don't need to understand all the nuances related to language services, having a basic understanding of the differences between interpreting and translating will empower you to make informed service requests. It will also clear up any confusion when discussing available services.

Looking for a unified language solution that meets all of your communication needs? That's what we're here for. Contact us today to find out how partnering with GLOBO can help your organization communicate effectively with the limited-English speaking community.

 

Start the Conversation

 

 

Additional Resources