Interpretation vs. Translation: Understanding the Key Differences

7 min read

Interpretation and translation both promote breaking down language barriers, facilitating communication, and bringing cultures together. And while most people use the terms “interpreter” and “translator” interchangeably, the two disciplines require a different skill set and are rarely conducted by the same people. Outside of the language service industry, the terminology can be confusing. Understanding the intricacies of each unique medium will make it easier for organizations looking to partner with a language provider to acquire the solutions they need. 

The first major distinction between interpretation and translation is that interpretation is spoken, and translation is written. On the surface, this is the defining characteristic that sets each apart from the other. But let’s take a deeper dive into three key differences. 

1. Translation is Performed Over Time, Interpretation is Immediate

Interpretation is executed in real-time either over the phone, in person, or via video. During conversation, an interpreter needs to listen for, not only the words being spoken, but also the nuances, meanings, and tones being delivered. In many languages there are words that don’t always have an exact equivalent in another language. In these cases, an interpreter will have to think quick on their feet to render the meaning of what is being said and keep the conversation moving without losing accuracy. 

Since translation renders the meaning of the written word from one language to another, it doesn’t entail the same immediacy as live interpretation. Translation occurs subsequent to the development of the source and affords the translation team time to utilize terminology resources, parallel texts, specialized technology, and other support tools to ensure the text is translated exactly as the author intended. 

2. Fluency and Direction 

Interpreters need to be fluent in both languages they work with. During quick back-and-forth exchanges the ability to instantly understand what is being said and relay that information accurately is critical to the task at hand. They need to work well under pressure and have superb communication skills. 

While translators need native fluency in the source language as well as the target language, they only work into their native language. They must have remarkable comprehension skills and an almost innate ability to transfer from the source language to the target language. They have the option of consulting terminology resources, specialized subject-area reference material, and making use of the most current technology to support their work.  

3. Collaboration 

While both interpretation and translation require teamwork, the people they work with are quite different. Interpreters work directly with clients and their limited English proficient customers or patients in realtime. They depend on their memory and fluency in the two languages to quickly work with each speaker in the absence of any external tools or resources for support. 

In translation, a project can go through several stages and edits, and involve a team of translators, editors, proofreaders, and project managers all working together to assure that the intended meaning of the original material is kept intact. Translators rely on their expert reading comprehension skills, and their ability to accurately render written material into the target language. 

Interpretation and translation are closely related in that they bring cultures together and remove language barriers; however, the skill sets required are ultimately quite different. Understanding these key differences can make it easier to navigate the solutions offered by language service providers. 

Learn more about LSA’s interpretation and translation services today! 

Contact our team at 800.305.9673 X55305 or fill out our contact form in seconds.

About LSA 

Language Services Associates (LSA) offers a full suite of language interpretation solutions to help optimize the experience of limited English proficient customers and patients. Providing native language support improves the efficiency and productivity of staff, raises customer satisfaction levels, and builds loyalty. For more than 2,000 clients worldwide, in more than 230 languages, LSA provides a competitive differentiator in the healthcare, government, financial and banking, insurance, entertainment, hospitality, and manufacturing industries.

Vizient Awards LSA 3-Year Contract for Language Services

6 min read


Media Contact:
Jerry Lotierzo
Strategic Sales Manager – GPOs 

800.305.9673 X55335 

Vizient Re-Awards Language Services Associates, Inc. 3-Year Contract 

Horsham, PA August 2021   Language Services Associates (LSA) is pleased to announce that it has been re-awarded a three-year contract with Vizient.  LSA is a full-service provider of onsite and remote interpretation and translation solutions for more than 230 languages. With LSA’s scalable solutions and innovative technology, the contract makes LSA’s language service options available to all Vizient member hospitals at contracted pricing. 

Vizient is one of the largest member-driven, healthcare performance improvement companies in the country. Its suppliers help strengthen Vizient members’ delivery of high-value care through a commitment to quality and performance. LSA’s comprehensive suite of language services enables Vizient members to achieve their health equity goals by eliminating disparities and improving the health of all patient groups and populations while simultaneously controlling language services costs through the intelligent utilization of multiple language services modalities and technologies.  

For over thirty years, LSA has been a national leader in language services solutions for healthcare organizations, financial services, insurance, Medicare call centers, conferences, and any setting where communication is key. LSA offers a full suite of real-time, seamless interpretation solutions by phone, video, or in-person, scheduled or on-demand. LSA also provides document and website content translation services as well as language assessments.  

“Language Services Associates is delighted to continue our trusted partnership with Vizient,” said Scott F. Cooper, LSA’s President. “It is a fantastic achievement for LSA, but it is also a testament to Vizient and their members’ commitment to optimizing language access and equity for limited English-speaking and Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities through this relationship. The Vizient Membership has embraced the benefits of our best-in-class interpretation and translation services for over 10 years, and we look forward to continuing and expanding our membership relationships,”.  

LSA uses a distributed interpreter model, which means it is not as susceptible to business disruptions as large centrally located call centers. “We pride ourselves on top quality in both pillars of language services: best in class interpreters and the technology to swiftly deliver them,” said Mr. Cooper. “In the swiftly evolving technological landscape since COVID, LSA’s people and technology remain more agile than ever, allowing our customers to focus on what they do best.” 

“Additionally, our choice of flexible, seamless platform delivery models including integration into most Telehealth platforms available today provides a more efficient & effective overall patient experience,” said Jerry Lotierzo, LSA’s lead liaison to Vizient. 

LSA delivers industry-leading integration of interpretation services through a wide array of complex platforms including remote encounters, health system EHRs, and multi-party interactions. Sophisticated solutions offer healthcare organizations much-needed flexibility and choice given their rapidly changing delivery model and continued growth of telehealth accessibility. 

Quality interpretation in the healthcare space helps overcome language barriers of at-risk population groups and delivers important healthcare access to all. Providing interpreters reduces patient readmission rates, helps with patient outcomes, and contributes to greater clinician efficiency while meeting important compliance mandates. 

About LSA 

Language Services Associates is a full-service national leader delivering interpretation and translation solutions via telephone, video, and in person. Thousands of clients worldwide rely on LSA’s unique combination of state-of-the-art technology, a global roster of highly qualified interpreters providing more than 240 languages, and over 25 years of industry expertise.  It is based just outside of Philadelphia with a national footprint.  It is a 100% woman-owned business.