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What Is The Difference Between Transcription & Translation?

Posted on: May 22, 2023 by admin

Transcription and translation are both complex tasks, requiring the skills of a highly-trained specialist. Companies who produce content for a wide audience may need to make use of both services during the course of their business, and sometimes both processes will need to be undertaken concurrently to produce one piece of content. Read on to discover the similarities and differences between transcription and translation.


The Definition of Transcription

Transcription is the process of converting audio content into written content. The transcriber must listen to an audio file and write down the words spoken. In the process of transcription, the audio file and the written content are in the same language, so the transcriber only needs to be proficient in one language. In some cases, for example, if the transcription is being used for academic or legal purposes, the audio content is transcribed verbatim, including pauses, stutters, half-spoken words and other audio information such as coughs, laughter and throat clearing. In other cases, the transcriber may be required to produce an edited transcription, where the content is edited for readability and clarity, rather than including all the auditory information.


The Definition of Translation

Translation is the process of converting written text in one language into another language, while retaining the exact meaning conveyed in the original text. A skilled translator must be highly proficient in both the source and target language, with an advanced understanding of spelling, grammar and writing conventions in both languages. There are many different types of translation, depending on the type of text and the intended audience. In some cases, such as literary translation, the translator must keep their translation as close as possible to the original text, with no omissions or additions. In other cases, such as translations of marketing or website material, the translator may be required to localise the text, to ensure it makes sense and is relatable to the new audience.


The Differences Between Transcription and Translation?

Of course, the main difference between transcription and translation is that transcription involves converting content from one format (audio) to another (text) within the same language. Whereas in translation, the written content is rewritten in a different language, so the format stays the same, but the language changes. As such, the key difference between a transcriber and a translator is that transcribers only need to be familiar with one language, whereas translators must be highly skilled in both the language of the source text and the language into which it must be translated. Some other key differences include:

  • In transcription, the source may be an audio file, a video or sign language, whereas in translation the source is always a written text.
  • Translation takes place across more industries and applications as it is used to make content comprehensible to speakers of other languages, whereas transcription applications are usually more specialised.
  • Transcribers may need to have more highly attuned listening abilities, such as the ability to comprehend various accents and indistinct patterns of speech (e.g. mumbling).
  • Translators will need to have stronger creative writing skills in order to accurately recreate meaning in a new language even where a direct translation does not exist.


The Similarities Between Transcription and Translation?

While transcription and translation are two different processes, they do have some similarities. Both processes require highly trained professionals with exceptional linguistic skills (either in one language, or two). Both processes also involve taking content in one form and transforming it for a new audience or application. Transcription and translation also sometimes go hand in hand, for example, if an audio file needs to be turned into a text in a different language, this will require a combination of both processes.


Which One Is More Suitable?

Deciding whether to choose a transcription or a translation service will depend on two factors:

  1. What is the format of the source content, and what is the end format required?
  2. Do you need the content to be converted into a different language?


If you need content converted from audio to written format, you will need the services of a transcriber. If you need content converted from one language to another, you will need the services of a translator. If you require both, you will either need to hire a transcriber and then a translator, or a translator who is able to perform both services concurrently. If you require something different, for example, audio content converted into another language in the same format, you may require a different professional altogether, in this case, an interpreter.



At Speak Your Language we have skilled and experienced translators who can also perform transcription services if you require audio content converted into written text in a different language. Contact us today to discuss the requirements of your next translation or transcription job.