The Difference Between Transcription and Translation

The Difference Between Transcription and Translation

Transcription and Translation – The Big Difference

In this post we’ll look at the main difference between transcription and translation, because there is one.

These terms are often confused with one another. If you take into account the similar structure of the words, and the fact that there occasions (for example conferences) where there is cause to use both services, it’s easy to see why.

So what is the difference between transcription and translation?

By definition

Even by definition these two words seem to be describing a very similar process.

the definition of transcription

the definition of translation

The words to focus on in the transcription definition are ‘written’ and ‘printed’. Whereas translation is focused on the language and, according to the above definition, ‘conversion’ i.e. converting the written or spoken word from one language into another.

transcription using headphones

In a nutshell

Transcription doesn’t typically mean converting from one language to another. Transcription, simply put, is documenting something into written form. For example, the process of listening to a recording of, say, an interview or a lecture and then transcribing into a readable document is transcription.

Whereas translation would be converting text into another language.

When is transcription needed?

As transcription serves as a lasting and tangible outcome of any spoken word, it is needed when there is cause to refer back to a conversation, talk or interview in writing.

There are endless occasions where transcription services are needed. Recordings of conferences, interviews, lectures, consultations are typical example.

So really transcription serves all of the major sectors including civil service, education, medical, business, legal, media and politics. It’s a service we likely to benefit from more often that we are aware.

transcription of a recorded lecture

When is translation needed?

In a world of diversity and multiculturalism there is an ever growing need for language conversion. Similarly to transcription, access to quality translation services is integral to all sectors.

Even where translation is not technically required, delivering content in many different languages increases its accessibility and increases the potential reach.  Providing translation over and above what is expected from a legal standpoint shows that an organisation is inclusive and accessible and that it embraces diversity. And, if you’re doing that, you need to be very careful in how you select a translation agency.

At a glance: The main differences

Translation Transcription
Involves two or more languages Usually only involves one language
Written form to written form Another media to written form only
A translator is required to speak at least two languages A transcriber only needs to speak the language being transcribed