Transcription and Translation – Everything You Need to Know

The translation is a tricky process and involves a lot more terms as its subfields depend on the niches and industries translation is required. It is a complex process and interrelated with multiple phrases. Transcription and translation are often used with each other. People may take these as similar, however, these have differences in several terms. The language services consider both as a process of translation. Translation and transcription both are used for the same purpose though i.e to bridge the language gap.

What are transcription and translation?

In order to understand both terms and to know their right use, it is imperative to understand both terms.


Transcribe comes from Latin which states a process where trans is for over and scriber is for writing.

It deals with a scenario where a person has to listen to an audio file and pen down the content which is said or spoken in that particular audio. The listener has to copy the audio content as it is said in the file word to word and in the same language which is used by the speaker.

A person who performs this activity is called a transcriber.


It is a process where a person transforms written content from one language to another language. The first language is the source language and another language is the target language.

This term has its origin in the old French verb ‘translater’ and the Latin verb translates implying how the meaning is carried over.

A translator is called out to perform this process of translation.

Whenever a customer comes with an audio file for translation, the audio file is first transcribed i.e written in the same language, and later it is translated to the target language.

Translation vs Transcription – Historical background

Translation and transcription have evolved over the centuries and have come a long way.

History of translation

The process of translation has also a rich historical background. It comes from the Mesopotamian era where Sumerian poems and Gilgamesh got translated into other Asian languages due to their popularity. People wanted to read but could not understand the original language. This is dated back to the second millennium BC. A lot of Buddhist monks also translated the Indian documents and Sanskrit content into the Chinese language.

History of transcription

The transcription process is not new and it was there in ancient times too. It dates back to 3400 BCE. People back in both days used to get training in transcription to get employed in roman and Egyptian times.

However, it got on hold as well and was not paid much attention until the 19th century more than 200 years later. It was after the typewriter was invented that transcription started getting common and it was much more in practice in the U.S as compared to other regions.

Difference between transcription and translation

Several language service providers (LSP) provide services in transcription and translation. Also, people find these terms similar, how are these not? Both of these are involved in different processes and have their own practices and outcomes which make them different.


Transcription services are availed in different scenarios where people hire these services for consultations, interviews, seminars, and conferences. The process of transcription serves multiple industries and sectors including media, entertainment, medical, education, and politics with civil services too.

Transcription, as we know represents the language in its written forms. However, multiple processes and applications are being mentioned here to put great emphasis on how it is different from the process of translation. The debate about transcription vs translation never gets old.

  • The audio file which is coming for the transcription could be in a speech form or sign language. It not only is accompanied by verbal sources but also includes existing content that is prepared in the different writing systems.
  • When we talk about academic linguistics, transcription has a great significance which tells the system of methods that come with sociolinguistics, dialectology conversation analysis, and also its phonetics. Transcription has an extremely important role to play in the subfields of speech technology.
  • Medical transcription is the other example of it. Transcription is very common in the medical field and is very beneficial for physicians as well as patients. Most physicians provide recorded voice notes for patients to provide written copies of patients’ medical history. Transcription ensures that patients get the best medical healthcare regardless of location and geographical boundaries.
  • Advertising companies also make most of the transcription. It helps the companies to transcribe audio and video file and content material to ensure that the promotional message and context remains the same as in the original file. This is done to showcase products that advertising agencies have to offer in the foreign market.
  • Unlike a translator, a transcriber has to deal with one language therefore he is expected to be really good at the given language knowing its nuances and dialects.
  • As the transcriber is only concerned with the content and its information so colloquial expressions are not necessarily needed.
  • A transcriber deals with two different formats from recorded to written.

So these are major differences between transcription and translation.


Here comes the translation and its differences with the process of transcription. Both these terms are related to working with languages. Therefore, both need the services of linguists who are proficient in the required languages.

  • Translation deals with at least two languages which include source and target languages, unlike transcription which has to handle one language only.
  • Translators most of the time have to deal with the written content. However, there are cases where clients require the translator to translate content from audio and video recording of the source material. In that case, the translator will have to look for the services of the transcriber and then he can further translate the file.
  • A translator has to be extremely skilled and talented while being good at creative writing to deliver the intended message from the source document to the target language accurately.
  • Translation has been playing an extremely vital role in the process of globalization and multiculturalism in facilitating the masses’ mutual understanding and building effective communication among people who speak different languages. Once the content is translated it allows people to access it more easily which helps to reach content to a wider audience. As we consider the legal aspect of making people from different ethnicities access content shows acceptance and diversity.
  • Translation deals with one form of content only which is written content.

Two main categories of translation

It further has two categories to handle.

1.    Literary

Literary content translation deals with the content which is presented in the form of poems, stories novels, and fiction writing.

2.    Non-literary

 Non-literary content is about the translation of legal scientific, technical, and other defined documents which may require translation for multiple purposes.

The translator has to be really proficient in the target language. Therefore, it is always suggested to work with native speakers as translators as no one can have a better understanding of a language than a native one. Also, he understands the cultures well, their nuances, jargon, idioms slang, and phrasal expressions among grammatical differences too.

Transcription vs Translation – Similarities

Translation and transcription differ from each other as well as share similarities too. The similarities between transcription and translation are there.

The basic similarity between both is the function of helping people understand each other. Transcription deals with one language and translation have to deal with two languages. These languages come from the original language as a source and the target language as the final one. However, both processes work for the facilitation of language information and communication.

More similarities include

  • Both processes are used by businesses to expand their business and to cater to the potential market for monetary purposes globally.

The services of both features are required in

  • Group discussions
  • Interviews
  • Academic lectures
  • Industry conferences
  • Depositions
  • Market research
  • Translation and transcription are also beneficial for online resources. The podcasts of transcripts are important for people who are hearing impaired. Similarly, translation includes subtitles for the video materials which come from foreign markets so that people can understand each video they are watching and can enjoy it.
  • Translators also translate the transcripted content so that they can target the audiences at a wider level. This is how transcription and translation can work together.
  • These are similar in the way that they improve the medium of communication between two individuals, parties, and businesses, always working in the favor of people. They provide opportunities for people from all over the world to communicate and get communicated while understanding each other well.

Clarity about both terms

Even though the process share similarities and differences too. However, similarities between transcription and translation don’t imply that these two as one. Transcription can only be penned down what is there in the form of recorded format either audio or video. It requires the content and transcription in exactly the same language which is there in the original language.

Translation, whereas work on two languages taking content from one language and translating it to the other such as English to Spanish or Spanish to French. The job of a translator requires him to be proficient in both languages. Translation’s purpose mainly serves the motive of carrying the meaning of language from one language to other.

Translation vs Transcription – Future

Businesses from all over the world are now into transcription and translation and there is no looking back for both practices and this industry. Companies are recording massive amounts of video content and audio either for their customers overseas or at times for internal use as well.

Speech technology has gained accuracy over the years. Voice-to-text is a real thing and services are provided by a lot of vendors. It is also a highly-paid job. Artificial intelligence has also been playing a vital role in the evolution and success of transcription.

Transcription processes and transcribers intend to improve the quality of speech recognition technology and voice-to-text methods a lot better with the help of advanced technology.

The translation industry has been on a boom like never before. It is growing at a fast pace. Globalization has made it expand in no time, unlike other industries. The translation industry has managed to reach $45 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach even more in the future years. Increased demand for translation has created enormous opportunities and has enabled translators to earn millions annually offering a promising future for the industry and the people involved.

Final Words

Translation and transcription are often considered the same by people. However, these both practices are carried out to facilitate people who do not speak the same language. There are differences and similarities as well. The growing trend of internationalization has been the backbone of the translation industry making both practices evident for effective expansions overseas.

What is the Hardest Language to Learn?

The process of language learning is an active process that a human experiences after birth and it keeps on in progress throughout one’s life. Language acquisition deals with the human capacity and competency to perceive and comprehend a language as well as to produce and use words to communicate and interact with people. People learn new languages to communicate the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of their lives with family members friends, and acquaintances, basically to anyone and to maintain the order of the world. There are more than 7000 languages in the world. A few of them are easy to learn as compared to others.

The top five hardest languages to learn in the world are

  1. Mandarin Chinese
  2. Arabic
  3. Vietnamese
  4. Japanese
  5. Korean

What is the hardest language to learn for Non English speakers?

Mandarin Chinese is one of the languages that is spoken all around the world and has billions of speakers. It also comes on the top as the most difficult language to learn generally and non-English speakers also find it the toughest to crack. This is quite interesting that the most spoken language in the world is the one that is also the hardest to learn. There are multiple factors that make it the most challenging language to learn particularly for speakers of other languages and mainly non-English people.

Factors that make it tough to learn

Chinese is also one of the top languages that avid learners love to learn. However, it does have a lot of challenges. Learning it could not go well with non-English people. Japanese and Korean may find this language a little relevant and other speakers could find it the most difficult one. Here are a few factors which make this language tough to learn for non-English natives.


Unlike the other languages, Chinese Mandarin has quite less grammar patterns. Mainly there are no tenses in the Chinese language. The words in the Chinese language do not change their forms or conjugate. However, that could be an easier thing for the Chinese and those who speak and write languages without verbs. Non English speakers nonetheless, find it quite weird and tough to follow a language that doesn’t practice verbs.

A few examples are

I am——我是 (wǒ shì)

He is——他是 (tā shì)

They are——他们是 (tāmen shì)


A standardized version of the romanized transliteration of Chinese characters is considered Pinyin. It is a thing of great help for Chinese but not much for other speakers. They can barely get the romanized transliteration. However, pinyin is beneficial in the way that having it in systems and online can help with character suggestions.

Chinese characters

Chinese characters are extremely tough and mysteriously and hard to learn for people who are not natives. Reading and writing Chinese characters may require a lifetime to learn and is a difficult aspect of learning Mandarin. 汉字 (hànzì) is the name of Chinese written script and it relies on logograms. These are single characters that if used right can represent the whole world.

Chinese, unlike other western languages, is more related to a pictographic script which makes it tough to remember the huge number of characters. Chinese characters are countless and one needs to memorize at least 3500 characters to learn and practice this language. Now, people who speak languages with 26-27 alphabets and characters can hardly memorize this many characters, and can barely get away with the fact of learning 3500 characters.

In other languages even if you find a word that you never heard of but at least you can try to pronounce it by getting the alphabet. In Chinese, however, it is not the case. A lot of clusters of Chinese characters with similar meanings often come with similar patterns. These elements which are recurring are called radicals. These are the words that serve as the foundation of writing mandarin.

  • 木头 (mùtou) – log
  • 木工 (mùgōng) – carpentry
  • 木屋 (mùwū) – log cabin

Tonal language

Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language which makes it even harder for other language speakers to learn it. Non-English speakers have to master an art where learning Chinese words may require having totally a new skill.

There are four tones in the Chinese language. These can also be considered five adding a neutral tone. It gets challenging for people to detect and scan the differences between pronunciations. Moreover, one more thing which makes learning complex is added change of tone which may sound the same but the tone makes it define a totally different meaning. This implies how the same syllables with different tones can be used for two entirely different things.

What is the hardest language to learn for Spanish speakers?

Spanish itself is not much difficult language to learn and is also on the list of new language learners. It is one of the easiest languages to learn. As the foreign service institute (FSI) suggests Spanish belongs to category I. These levels have been defined by the institute depending on the difficulty level. However, according to FSI Spanish language can be learned by average speakers in 600 hours or about 24 weeks to have a mild understanding of it. This time span gets the user proficient where they can learn and speak about everyday topics.

When it comes to the hardest language to learn for Spanish speakers, there are many including Mandarin Chinese. However, learning Japanese could also be a real struggle for the speakers.

Japanese language

Japanese is one of the hardest languages that Spanish speakers could barely have a grip on. There are multiple reasons that make Japanese harder for Spanish speakers.

Writing system

The Asian writing system of the Japanese language makes it quite challenging for Spanish people to learn and understand. This is quite bewildering how one can write and read without actual letters.

Kanji is the writing system with Chinese characters used for writing Japanese. With Kanji, there is kana which has foreign words, grammar, and marketers. So it gets quite tough for Spanish speakers to understand the language as they come from a language that has a proper writing system.


Unlike English and Spanish, the Japanese use of postpositions makes a Spanish learner ponder a lot to figure out the correct and relevant use of postpositions.

Word order

The verb goes after the object which makes Japan entirely different from Spanish and English. As if the languages belong to two different planets. These difficulties make it tough for the speakers to learn Japanese and if they try their hands, they take a lot of time to get it.

Other languages that could be difficult for Spanish people include Mandarin Chinese and Korean mainly.

What is the hardest language to learn for Chinese speakers?

The answer is quite simple. It is going to be in English. As English speakers could barely get proficient in the Chinese language and the same goes for Chinese speakers who can hardly get a good grip on English. Chinese speakers find English a tough language as both languages are poles apart. Chinese find English complex tenses, Cases, huge vocabulary, and irregular verbs with spellings quite tough and too much to get good at considering English the toughest language for them.

The Chinese teach English as a compulsory subject in school from primary school to university class as well. They also provide help with online resources, through TV and bookstores. Native speakers yet have to struggle a lot with learning English. It further depends on the time and energy they are ready to put in.

What is the hardest Asian language to learn?

Arabic it is, among a few others.

The foreign service institute (FSI) in the US has listed the Arabic language as a category V language which describes the difficulty of this language and it falls in the category of extreme difficulty. According to FSI, it takes more than 2200 hours of study to get proficient in these languages which fall in category V.

Factors that make learning Arabic difficult


The script of Arabic is the foremost thing that non-speakers notice at first about this language. This language is written from right to life unlike the other European languages and the letters are joined with each other which non-natives find disorienting at first. The Arabic language has 28 alphabets and the main hurdle is understanding the languages, reading, and learning.


Pronunciation of the Arabic language is another struggle that non-speakers have to go through. The pronunciation of this language involves guttural sounds. These are the emphatic versions of consonants which are the reason why vowels and their sounds are changed with dual forms of nouns.

Dialects and accents

Like all other languages, the Arabic language also has different versions and dialects which people speak and practice according to their region. Modern standard Arabic is used by today’s generation also it used in politics and the academic world. Arabic is an ancient language and traditional Arabic would be tough even for the people who speak standard and modern Arabic.

Final words

The most difficult language in the world is the one which is spoken most all over the globe, i.e Mandarin Chinese. English speakers, in particular, find it tough to learn Chinese due to it being a tonal language with complex characters and grammar. Spanish people on the other hand may find Japanese tough due to a writing system that comes from Chinese characters. Above all the Asian language that is the toughest to crack is none other than Arabic as even FSI (Foreign Service Institute) has also listed it as a category V language.