Have you ever wondered, ‘What is the difference between transcription and translation?'

Both words have three syllables, start with the prefix ‘trans’, and end with the suffix ‘ion’, so it’s no wonder that they often get interchanged. And if you don’t know the actual difference in meaning between the two, don’t feel embarrassed.  You are not alone.

In fact, if you Google ‘What is the difference between transcription and translation?’ you are likely to get several pages of search results taking about complex DNA sequencing.

But, we aren’t talking about that!  Thankfully.

No, we are talking about what these words mean in terms of language in both the written and spoken word.

So let’s break it down for you.

TRANSLATION

Translation is the process of taking a piece of audio or written text and converting it into another language.  

Its that simple.

Think of those talented individuals that stand next to foreign politicians during news briefings.  They simultaneously listen to what Putin is saying in Russian and then relay that to Donald Trump in English, so that he can attempt to understand what has been said.

That’s translation.

People need translation services for all sorts of reasons.  Maybe there is a research document written in Italian that would be a great source for your thesis paper. Problem is, you only speak English. Converting that document from Italian to English is considered translation.  

Or maybe you’ve just written the most ground-breaking scientific document ever and you want everyone in the world to read it. You would need to get it translated from English into French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese to obtain such global reach.

There are many reasons why a document might need to be translated, but the bottom line is that translation involves converting a document text or audio from one language to another.

TRANSCRIPTION

Transcription, on the other hand, involves taking an audio or a video file and converting it to a text document verbatim and in the same language that the original speaker used.

Transcription service providers like Happy Scribe can take an audio or video file in Spanish and convert it into a Spanish text document.

Let’s look at another example.

Imagine that you are a journalist and you’ve conducted dozens of interviews on your investigative piece into why more and more millennials are shunning home ownership.  You may want to hire a transcription service provider - like Happy Scribe - to give you written versions of all these interviews so that you easily review all of the research material you’ve collected.  Viewing the written word of these audio files, will make it easier for you to find the best angle for your story and pull direct quotes.

Simply put, transcription takes content in a recorded format and converts into a written document.  The words are an exact copy of what is in the recording and it is rendered in the same language as the original.


If you are doing a research project or are a journalist, there is a probability that you will need both options.  In most instances the transcription (the conversion of the audio/video file into text comes first) and the translation (taking the Word Document and converting it to whatever language you require) comes second.

One easy way to remember the difference is this.  Transcription includes the word SCRIPT, meaning the written form, as in recorded to written format.  And Translation includes the word SLATE. As in clean slate, creating something new, like a new language. Ok! I know it is a bit of a stretch, but it is one mnemonic device that might help you keep them straight.

However you try to remember the difference, it is important to at least know the nuances between the words translation and transcription and your personal requirements before you begin your service provider search.

Speaking of which, if you have any transcription questions, feel free to drop us a line.