Differences Between Legal Interpreters and Translators

Interpreters and translators that work within the court system are often referred to by the same name even though they do different things. Although both work to translate one language to another, the environments are different. A legal interpreter works only with verbal speech while a translator works with the written word.

Professional training is mandatory for both legal interpreters and translators. Translators need to be organized, detail-oriented, and analytical. Interpreters must have accuracy, functionality, and speed when performing their job.

Interpreting is done in a live setting using different options, such as over-the-phone, meetings, and conference, and can be done either simultaneously or consecutively. In the same way, translation can also be performed using different settings that may include software interfaces, documents, newspapers, contracts, and literature.

Here are the major differences between legal interpreters and translators:


A legal interpreter converts verbal communication from one language to another. Translators translate written words from a source language to a target language.

Resources / Materials

Interpreters perform their work on the spot without sources or aids. Translators make use of translation tools, such as translation memory software, dictionaries, texts, and more.


Interpreters do live interpretation of the language as it is being spoken, without any interruptions or delays. The translation of written documents usually takes a few days, especially in cases of multiple language translations.

Level of Accuracy

While interpreters strive to achieve perfection, it’s a challenging thing to do in a live setting. Translators have sufficient time to review and revise every phrase before delivering the final product so they can accomplish a higher level of accuracy.


Interpreters perform interpretation of one language at a time. Translators can work on more than one language simultaneously.

They may differ in the media they operate in, but there are some basic features that both professional translators and interpreters have in common including profound cultural and linguistic knowledge, expertise in the subject matter, and aptitude to communicate clearly.


If you are in need of a legal interpreter in the Denver Metro Area, please contact us today!