Translation vs Interpretation

Benefits, Costs, and, Services, of school Translation and Interpretation Services

Before I began working in schools, I was not completely aware of the differences between the terms translation and interpretation. I regularly interpreted for my parents not knowing that as a minor I was breaking the code of ethics rules and guidelines as noted by the Office of Civil Rights.

A picture of text highlighting the word translation
Word translation

As an interpreter, I remember sometimes being introduced as an interpreter but other times as a translator. It was then when I decided to figure out the difference between interpreting and translation and understand its original meaning.


According to the google dictionary translating is to express the sense of (words or text) in another language. This translation process refers to the process of expressing written communication from one language to the other. In some school districts, staff members do document translations. 

Translation Costs

The translation of documents is often much more expensive than interpreting services. The translation of a written text is more time-consuming. Most individuals and companies charge a specific rate per word count. The cost per word depends on the language. The translation of a document can sometimes cost up to .35 cents per word.

Translation services often use The Microsoft Word processor to do a word count.s are done by using Microsoft Word processor. They then multiply the number of words by the standard rate of that target language to come up with a translation price. Some schools use Bilingual staff members to translate documents. Computer-assisted translation has proven to be more cost-effective however it presents certain communication risks that must be taken into consideration.

Translation Services

An effective translator possesses excellent writing skills and a deep understanding of cultural implications. Most schools provide certain documents in other languages. These may include the school registration forms, emergency cards, brochures, flyers, field trip forms, school code of conduct, and sometimes parts of the district website. These documents and forms are often the most used documents by families in schools.

Not all languages are easy to translate. Bilingual translators are not easy to find and some languages take much longer to translate than others. You will often see that most documents are available to families in Spanish. This may be because as of 2014, there were 39.3 million Spanish only speakers in the US.

There are some shortcuts or free options that schools use to translate. Google Translate is one of the most known translation tools. Another well-known tool is Microsoft translate. You might recognize Google translate because it is a tool that some families use to support with homework from home.

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Although using online tools is sometimes necessary, it is not always the best option. For instance, online tools are known to provide translations that are sometimes offensive or impossible to understand. As a result, anyone using an online translation tool should read and review the translation. A disclaimer may be necessary to inform of the usage of an online tool. Most families will understand that your intention is to help not to offend.


According to the google dictionary, interpreting is to translate orally or into sign language the words of a person speaking a different language. Some people confuse the words interpreting and translating but note that interpreting refers to oral language, and translation refers to written language.

A new term now used in place of interpretation is “sight-translation.” Sight-translation refers to live or in-person interpretation. State departments use “sight-translation” to refer to the interpretation of a student test. A professional interpreter understands the difference between sight-translation and when to render such service.

Interpreting Costs

Bilingual services costs can vary depending on the language and the type of services, such as interpretation or translation. For instance, Spanish interpretation is often less expensive because it is a language that is much more available and easier to find. Other languages, such as Hindi, Swahili, or Farsi, cost twice as much and are much harder to find. A not so common language such as Farsi can cost up to $150 an hour. The provision of interpreting services must be paid by schools and has proven to be very beneficial to parents.

Interpreting Services

In schools, interpreting is a service provided to non-English speaking families during parent-teacher conferences, IEP meetings, parent events, and school-related meetings. Interpretation services must be prearranged so that an interpreter is secured and scheduled ahead of time. 

There are various types of interpretation modes. When an interpreter provides consecutive interpretation during a real-time presentation or event they are using simultaneous interpretation mode. Consecutive interpreting is a form of interpretation that happens during a meeting where members pauce to allow for the interpretation.

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Non-English speaking families benefit from interpreting services and have a right to request this service as necessary. Interpreting services bridge a communication gap that benefits the education of students. Families should feel empowered to request interpreting services when necessary. One key difference between translating and interpreting is that interpreters must be excellent in note-taking and process excellent communication skills. 

Over-the-Phone Interpretation

Many schools use over-the-phone interpretation companies for on-demand interpreting services. Hence, over-the-phone interpretation is a more modern interpreting service that allows schools to provide immediate interpreting services over the phone. It is a great resource to use in case of an emergency, parent walk-ins, address immediate concerns, or schedule meetings with parents who may need an interpreter.

Interpreting and Translating Certifications

Not everyone that’s bilingual can interpret and translate. Some people are comfortable with just oral language interpretation and may not be proficient in written translation.

The Certification for interpreting is not the same certification for translating. To certify in interpreting and translating a person must have separate professional qualifications. Some schools use professional translation services to secure professional translators with certifications. Some agencies focus on only written or interpreting certification and not always both. 

Although there are various differences between interpretation vs. translation the one important similarity is the goal of maintaining the original message of the original language. My native language, Spanish, has given me the opportunity to support many non-English speaking families.

I hope that this information has given a better understanding of the difference between translation and interpretation. It is always rewarding to see how my bilingual services can help bridge a communication gap that impacts the education of bilingual students in the US.

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4 thoughts on “Translation vs Interpretation”

  1. Hi this is great information since I getting involved into translating and interpreting to Spanish. Is good to know that the rate for each is completely different. Didn’t know

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