What is the Difference Between Transcription and Translation?

The difference between transcription and translation services with microphone and globe icons.
Uncover the key differences between transcription and translation in our detailed guide.

Transkriptor 2024-01-17

Two words that are often mistaken or confused are transcription and translation. This is understandable as the words themselves are spelled similarly and have a similar phonetic structure. Not only that, but both processes deal with the same overarching subject - language.

I want to put an end to the transcription vs translation debate though and explain clearly what each process is, how it works, and real-life applications.

Text Transcription: Converting Spoken Words into Written Text

Let’s start with transcription as it’s typically the process that is lesser known and is more often confused with translation.

Definition and Explanation

Transcription is the process of turning spoken words into written text either physically or digitally. The aim is to create a written or typed document that explicitly states the words that the person or people involved in the process spoke. This can then be used for further reference, as a record, or for analysis or accessibility.

Let’s look at an example. A company holds a disciplinary meeting between a manager and an employee. Here, a transcription would be written that contains all the conversations and questions that took part during the meeting including notes of which person said what words.

A transcription can then be used as evidence, and to keep a digital record of the meeting to refer back to when any disciplinary action is taken.

There are two main types of transcription - verbatim and non-verbatim. Verbatim transcriptions are word-for-word and include every piece of audio and spoken words. Non-verbatim transcriptions are watered-down and are meant to be easier to read and contain only the important information.

Applications and Use Cases

Transcription has been used for years in business, education, and the medical industry for research, studying, and record keeping and some popular use cases include:

  • Video transcriptions for accessibility.
  • Transcriptions of business meetings or video conferences.
  • Legal procedure transcriptions.
  • Transcriptions of study sessions and lectures.
  • Transcriptions of consultations with patients.
  • Accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • To comply with accessibility regulations and guidelines .

Techniques and Tools in Text Transcription

Transcription can be done manually and automatically. Manual transcription is especially time-consuming because it involves a person physically watching the footage or being present at the meeting and converting audio to text with a keyboard.

In contrast, automatic transcription software is much quicker and more efficient as it uses advanced AI algorithms to detect speech, recognize individual speakers, and turn the audio into text in a fraction of the time.

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Bridge language barriers with precise transcription and translation for global understanding.

Text Translation: Rendering Text or Speech from One Language to Another

With a clear understanding of transcription, we can now see how translation differs and put an end to the misunderstanding.

Definition and Explanation

Translation is the process of turning text written or spoken in one language into another. The aim here is simple - you want the document, piece of text, or audio clip to be multilingual and legible for people who can’t speak English for example.

A common example is website translations. Perhaps a company has a website with English text because their market is predominantly English-speaking. However, if they expand into a foreign market, they may want to create a translation of the English text into another language such as Spanish or German.

Translations improve accessibility and make sure that content is legible regardless of the language the audience can speak and read. The two main types of translation are written and spoken.

Applications and Use Cases

Translation has so many uses and in recent decades it has become even more important due to the global nature of business. Examples of translation applications include:

  • Website translations.
  • News article translations.
  • Book translations.
  • YouTube video translations.
  • Marketing material translations.

Techniques and Tools in Text Translation

Text translation can be done on the fly with human input. For example, a person who cannot speak English may have a translator standing next to them who translates questions and conversations aimed at them into their native language.

Like transcription, the process can also be automated and there is a wide range of tools that automatically translate when you add a document or past a block of text. Google Translate is a simple example.

Tech illustration of a person using transcription and translation software with audio and text elements.
Transcription or translation? Discover tools that simplify converting speech into text for diverse needs.

Transcription vs Translation - Know the Difference and Use Correctly

Let’s summarize the transcription vs translation debate. Transcription is the process of turning spoken words into a written text. This process has many uses including transcribing legal hearings, providing transcriptions for video content, and creating written records of things like meetings, interviews, and consultations.

In contrast, translation is the process of turning a text from one language to another. For example, perhaps you have a website with content written in English but you want to create a version translated into Chinese for Asian audiences. Translation improves accessibility and ensures that content can be understood by multiple demographics.

Frequently Asked Questions

Transcription and translation enhance accessibility by converting audio content into text and adapting content across languages, respectively. This makes information accessible to those who are deaf or hard of hearing and to speakers of different languages.

The main types of transcription are automated and manual transcription. Automated transcription uses software to convert speech to text, while manual transcription involves a person listening to the audio and typing out the content.

Automatic transcription software uses advanced speech recognition technology to analyze audio files and convert spoken words into text. It identifies speech patterns, processes the dialogue, and generates a corresponding text document.

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