Post info

Share this post

Differences Between Translations and Transcriptions

What is the difference between translations and transcriptions? When is translation needed? When is transcription needed? Are they interchangeable?

Understanding Transcription and Translation

People who are just learning about the complex world of translation and interpretation may not know exactly what characterizes transcription and what characterizes translation. Here are some ways to distinguish between these two services so that you can evaluate which one would meet your needs best.


  • Transcription means converting video or audio files into some written format, using one of three types of transcription, or a combination of those types.
    • Verbatim Transcription: A transcriptionist listens to audio or video while writing down, word-for-word, the language they hear.
    • Edited Transcription: A transcriptionist listens to audio or video and can choose to omit parts of the file before transcription, so long as the meaning of the file is not changed.
    • Intelligent Transcription: A transcriptionist listens to audio or video and does not include emotions, half-sentences or inaudible speech in the transcription.
  • Transcription often involves creating a document that serves as a “table of contents” for an audiovisual file, with notes of what time certain words and sentences appear (such as what sentence happens at minute 5 of the audio file).
  • Transcription alone does not interpret the words of the audiovisual file; it must be combined with interpretation or translation services to change the language.
  • Transcriptionists are quick thinkers and are highly proficient in their own language, as well as potentially some dialect markers that appear in verbal speech.
  • Transcription creates a new audience by transitioning from one medium to another.


  • Translation can involve any original document, but typically starts from a written document in one language that will be transformed into another language by the work of the translator.
  • Translation, by its very nature, cannot always create a word-for-word correspondence, since some ideas in one language must be translated as a concept, rather than as individual words, in order to render the original phrase as accurately as possible.
  • Translators must be native speakers of the target language, as well as extremely proficient in both the original and target languages in which they are translating.
  • Translation creates a new audience by transitioning from one language to another.

In both cases, the final product is a new document that allows a different audience to appreciate or understand the work of the original documents.

When is Translation Needed?

Translation is helpful in a variety of contexts: medical documents, informational flyers, and legal documents all need to be translated when a person who must sign or otherwise interact with the document doesn’t speak or read the original language. Translation is also popular for literary works that have a potential audience in a new language, as well as news organizations who wish to reuse stories originally written in another language. This is great to use when looking to enter new markets, gain bigger footholds on current markets, as well as increasing market share.

When is Transcription Needed?

Transcription is useful for a variety of purposes; one of the major reasons to transcribe (or make a transcript) of a video or audio file is for the added availability of a searchable document. If the original video, for instance, is 1 hour long, a searchable transcript would allow a viewer to find the exact minute when a particular subject was mentioned. Transcription is also used in journalistic and academic contexts in order to turn audio interviews into text documents that can be quoted and cited in articles and essays. Medical and legal contexts are also common for transcription; when a doctor or patient needs all the information in writing from a complex meeting with a medical professional or when a court case requires transcripts of witness statements, transcription services are used.

When Do Combined Services Make Sense?

There are a variety of times when a video or audio file needs both transcription and translation services: if, for instance, an instructional video is originally performed in English, a company may purchase transcription services to get the original script of the video, and then translation services to make a new script in Spanish in order to produce a second version in a new language or to dub the original video. Any time the document in question needs to transition to a new medium and to a new language, transcription and translation services should be combined.

Contact ISI Language Solutions today

Interested to learn more or see how ISI can help you? Give us a call today at (818) 753-9181 or send us an email at



Featured Content

Sign up for our Newsletter

Follow Us